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Current IssueAugust 01, 2014
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Ask The Expert: MTBE and Whole House Treatment in Two U.S. Regions: Midwest
08/01/2000 
 
Question: I was watching the news story on 60 minutes in January and have been trying to find out whether anyone has a conditioning system that will remove MTBE from our water. If you have any information on this, please let me know.

Charles Nill
St. Joseph Electronics
St. Joseph, Missouri
 

Answer: MTBE is difficult to remove from water because it's highly soluble and resistant to biodegradation. Used as a fuel oxygenate to help gasoline burn more cleanly, its use was mandated by the 1990 Clean Air Act in a number of highly populated U.S. cities and states. It moves fairly quickly in ground water, which is particularly problematic because of the national problem with leaking underground storage tanks. Bans on recreational personal watercraft, i.e., jet skis, etc., has largely been driven by the fact that their engines burn fuel very inefficiently, leaking gasoline -- and MTBE -- into lakes and reservoirs often used as drinking water supplies. There's presently no fully efficient, cost-effective household treatment for whole house in-line treatment. Some distillers may be capable of removing the substance, but more testing needs to be done to ensure that the MTBE is fully removed, and not re-introduced in the process. MTBE has been successfully removed by two of the better aeration devices manufactured by Northeast Environmental and BGC, but that simply transfers the problem to the air. Again more studies are required to determine a more comprehensive, affordable approach.

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