MTBE lawsuit alleges contamination in every county in New York state

The first US court case alleging MTBE contamination of private wells used for drinking water has been filed. Announced shortly after the EPA welcomed recommendations to restrict the use of the chemical, a gasoline additive used to reduce vehicle emissions, the lawyers representing New York state citizens whose wells have allegedly been contaminated are publicising a report that suggests there have been more than 1,500 MTBE contamination incidents in the state.

MTBE is a suspected carcinogen and has been used in the US’s Reformulated Gasoline Program to improve air quality in smog-prone areas. However, the chemical has been found to pose a substantial threat to ground and surface waters. (See related story)

The report provides details collected by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation during 1998. The information collected has not previously been made public and concerns MTBE spills in all 62 New York counties.

The class action lawsuit will be heard by the Supreme Court of the State of New York. The law firm representing well owners whose wells may have been contaminated by MTBE, Lewis Saul & Associates, specialises in product liability and toxic torts cases.

Toxics Targeting, the consultancy that produced the report alleging more than 1,500 MTBE spills in New York state, provides computerised environmental reports for use by government, industry and private individuals.

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