Harford residents ask legislators to end MTBE use

February 17, 2005|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

Warning that drinking-water wells across Maryland are being contaminated, Fallston-area residents appealed yesterday for legislation phasing out the use of a toxic gasoline additive that they learned last summer has been in their community's groundwater for more than a decade.

Members of the House Environmental Matters Committee received conflicting advice from industry and environmental advocates, however, about what to do about methyl tertiary butyl ether, or MTBE.

Though added to gas to fight unhealthful levels of summertime smog, the chemical has leaked from underground fuel tanks to foul hundreds of wells, mainly in the counties surrounding Baltimore.

Spokesmen for the oil industry and state officials warned that banning MTBE from Maryland gasoline could worsen air pollution. But ethanol manufacturers called their product a suitable pollution-fighting substitute that also would boost farmers.

Fallston residents backed seven bills introduced by their Harford legislators. Two bills would phase out MTBE use over the next four years, while two others would require Maryland to seek a waiver from adding any pollution-fighting additive to its gas, or to work in concert with neighboring states on a solution. Three other measures would force state environmental regulators to notify the public promptly whenever MTBE is discovered in nearby wells.

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