Readers address the MTBE issue

Your Opinions

Thoughts on issues relating to Harford County

March 06, 2005

Last week's question asked: What kinds of changes would you favor to deal with the threat of MTBE to the area's water supply?

Here are readers' views:

Low levels of MTBE may not be threat

As an Upper Crossroads resident for 20 years and a retired chemist with environmental experience, I am not convinced that low levels of MTBE in water are a health threat; evidence is lacking.

I feel that public notification of MTBE contamination is a good idea and should be implemented. Banning or phasing out of MTBE without a suitable replacement is a bad idea; ethanol is a possibility but it is known to cause performance problems in automobile engines and its production does yield undesirable side products.

All the recent publicity over MTBE's use as an oxygenate in gasoline seems to have missed the fact that MTBE was originally a replacement for tetraethyl lead in gasoline. MTBE was originally used at a low percentage, 3 or 4 percent I believe, with equivalent performance to leaded gasoline. I doubt that anybody would advocate going back to using tetraethyl lead in gasoline given its known pollution effects and I have not heard of any replacement being developed.

Bob Lindsay

Upper Crossroads

MTBE a health threat and should be banned

MTBE worsens air quality. It gives less miles traveled to a gallon of gasoline. The EPA admits that it increases by a large margin formaldehyde emissions. Formaldehyde causes many health disorders, one of which is asthma, especially in children. Asthma attacks in non-asthmatics have increased dramatically in regions wherever and whenever MTBE is used.

What you aren't told is that these same MTBE supporters you reported about have large stakes in the sales of pharmaceutical and medical services products. The claim that MTBE provides better air quality is supported because regions that use it experience greatly reduced visible smog. MTBE and its harmful byproducts are invisible, thinner and lighter aerosol pollutions. When heated by ignition systems or the sun, they rise like hot air rises in a hot air balloon.

MTBE is made from methane and ether. Both can be used as fuel to give a hot air balloon buoyancy. What MTBE does do is attach itself to heavy smog pollutants that come from diesel fuel, heating oil emissions and coal burning plants and carry it to high regions of the atmosphere where it is removed to rural areas by jet stream winds and storm movements, thus giving the appearance of cleaner air quality while its own harmful byproducts are still looming everywhere that a car is running or around filling stations, where it emits toxic vapors from evaporation.

Using thin petroleum olefins to disperse heavy toxins into the countryside involves these toxic vapors attaching themselves to water vapors where a chemical reaction occurs that gives the poison cloud its strength to rise into the sky.

Since MTBE was instituted nationwide, it gives the appearance of global warming to Americans. As other nations and Europe begin to use MTBE, we find that these occurrences of extreme weather pattern shifts happening globally. Now we are talking about global warming, but you never hear about methane.

The problem of man's inefficient use of methane and other volatile nitrous oxides that react directly with weather patterns can be solved at a profit to those emitting these gases because it is fuel and once it is recaptured, it can be used.

The president is actively promoting his Methane to Markets program worldwide that supports recapturing these emissions and using them as fuel but no one ever talks about it, not even his own people. He is on the right track.

My answer to your question is that MTBE should be banned and the truth be told.

Thank you for bringing attention to this issue.

Bobby Fontaine

Lorton, Va.

Time for quick action on MTBE threat

The changes I would like to see is a government entity that has teeth to truly deal with the MTBE issue quickly and efficiently. Talk is cheap and the furor over this issue remains strong. What are we waiting for ... mutation?

Matt E. Ziskind


Upgrade tanks to contain MTBE

MTBE vaporizes easily. Since tanks in the ground are not designed to seal vapors, either the tanks must be upgraded to contain vapor leak or the gas stations with these tanks cannot store and pump gasoline with the MTBE additive.

Cyrus Etemad-Moghadam


Remove additives that pollute water

Removing MTBE from gas may add to air pollution at some time in the future. The use of MTBE in gas is now polluting our wells. The choice for me is easy: Get rid of the additives that are poisoning my water. I'm not surprised that the oil companies and state officials are in agreement that MTBE should remain in the gas. They have a different agenda and I'm sure that my health is not at the top of their list.

D. Webster Tyler


Impose ban on MTBE as soon as possible

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