TX: MTBE Contaminant levels caused by Explorer pipeline burst beginning to decline at Lake Tawakoni

greenspun.com : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

TX: MTBE Contaminant levels caused by Explorer pipeline burst beginning to decline at Lake Tawakoni

Monitoring of lake to continue, officials say


By Brenda Rodriguez / The Dallas Morning News

Authorities said Monday that the levels of the gas additive MTBE in Lake Tawakoni are considerably lower since a half-million-gallon gasoline spill last month.

The additive "dispersed to larger areas of the lake, but at the same time, there's a lot lower levels of it," said Jack Tatum, development coordinator for Sabine River Authority, which owns and operates Lake Tawakoni. "We are still concerned about it, of course, and rightfully so."

Random sampling last week at Lake Tawakoni showed levels of MTBE - used to make gasoline burn more cleanly - at less than 10 parts per billion, Mr. Tatum said.

According to the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission, levels as low as 15 parts per billion could cause odor and taste problems in drinking water.

"Basically, we are putting in a long-term monitoring program," Mr. Tatum said. "We have to continue monitoring to be sure that the numbers stay low."

The contamination follows a half-million-gallon gasoline spill last month at a wheat field and the East Caddo Creek near the lake in Hunt County. The lake provides water for more than 10 cities, towns and water companies, including West Tawakoni and Dallas.

Explorer Pipeline of Tulsa, Okla., which owns the pipeline that broke, is being asked by the conservation agency to hold levels of the additive around the spill to "less than 15 parts per billion," officials said.

The company is responsible for the cleanup.

Officials with the city of Dallas, which is doing its own sampling, decided not to resume using water from the lake.

Last week, Dallas officials reported that levels of MTBE near the Dallas Water Utilities' intake ranged from 0.67 parts per billion to 5 parts per billion.

The city of West Tawakoni opened its intake last week after shutting it because of the contamination. The city is sending the water through its treatment system and then through a carbon filter to remove the MTBE, authorities said.

Rita Beving, the Dallas Sierra Club's conservation co-chair, said cities need to take an aggressive look at what is happening to area lakes.

"Lake Tawakoni was a wake-up call, and we need to address all our other water resources and what is going on with them," Ms. Beving said.

Last month, White House officials proposed phasing out MTBE, which is considered a possible cause of cancer.

MTBE can be smelled at low concentrations, and it makes water smell so bad that most will refuse to drink it.

"MTBE was rushed into the marketplace 10 years ago on a large scale, but it had been poorly tested from a toxicological standpoint," said Dr. Neil Carman, clean-air director for the Sierra Club's Texas chapter. "If we knew then what we knew now, it would not have happened, and it was really a terrible mistake."


-- Carl Jenkins (Somewherepress@aol.com), April 06, 2000

Moderation questions? read the FAQ