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Boats and other motorized watercraft are likely to be the primary source of MTBE (methyl tert-butyl ether) contamination in lakes and reservoirs, according to researchers at the University of California, Davis. MTBE, a fuel oxygenate, and the subject of much controversy in recent years, is added to gasoline in many areas of the country to increase burning efficiency and reduce emission pollutants. It has been identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a possible human carcinogen.
Results of a ten-month study examining MTBE in California's Donner Lake were published in the Oct. 10 Web edition of the peer-reviewed scientific journal Environmental Science & Technology, published by the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society. The article also will appear in the journal's Dec. 1 print edition.
"Exhaust products were the primary source of MTBE to Donner Lake and, we
hypothesize, for most lakes and reservoirs," claims the report's lead author
John Reuter, Ph.D., of the university's Tahoe Research Group. Two-cycle
engines, commonly found in personal watercraft and outboard motors, generally
have exhaust ports at or below the water line. "The seasonal distribution of
MTBE correlated almost perfectly with boat use," Reuter said. He notes that,
"statewide in California, surface water bodies that allow boating generally show
measurable MTBE, while it is uncommon that a lake or reservoir without boating
would contain MTBE."
Contact: Marvin Coyner
American Chemical Society