Recommendations and Actions
Note: EPA no longer updates this information, but it may be useful as a reference or resource.
What the experts say about MTBE
What did the Blue Ribbon Panel conclude and recommend?
In response to the growing concerns regarding MTBE in water, EPA's Administrator Browner appointed an independent Blue Ribbon Panel of leading experts from the public health, environmental and scientific communities, fuels industry, water utilities, and local and state governments. They were charged to investigate the air quality benefits and water quality concerns associated with oxygenates in gasoline, and to provide independent advice and recommendations on ways to maintain air quality while protecting water quality. They concluded, among other things, that MTBE detections have primarily caused consumer odor and taste concerns, and that in rare instances MTBE has been found in drinking water supplies at levels well above EPA's drinking water advisory and some state standards.
The Panel recommended the following:
- Removing the current congressional CAA requirement for
2 percent oxygen in RFG
- Improving the nation's water protection programs, including
over 20 specific actions to enhance Underground Storage
Tank, Safe Drinking Water, and private well protection programs
- Reducing the use of MTBE substantially nationwide
- Maintaining current air quality benefits
- Accelerating research on MTBE and its substitutes
Actions to Address MTBE Concerns
What additional steps is EPA taking to address concerns with MTBE?
EPA has taken the following actions to significantly reduce or eliminate MTBE, and to address prevention and remediation concerns. EPA is working closely with Congress, the states, and the regulated community to accomplish these efforts.
EPA is providing technical assistance to Congress to work toward a targeted legislative solution that addresses the Panel's recommendations. Specifically, EPA Administrator Browner and Agriculture Secretary Glickman released a legislative framework on March 20, 2000 to encourage immediate Congressional action to reduce or eliminate MTBE and promote consideration of renewable fuels like ethanol.
Also on March 20, 2000, EPA Administrator Browner announced the beginning of regulatory action under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to significantly reduce or eliminate use of MTBE in gasoline while preserving clean air benefits.
Drinking Water Protection Programs:
- EPA will issue a secondary drinking water standard, based on taste and odor, by late Fall 2000. This taste and odor standard will serve as a guideline that states may adopt.
- A new rule requires all large and a representative sample of small public water systems to monitor for MTBE in ground water and surface water beginning in 2001. EPA is encouraging water systems to begin monitoring prior to the 2001 implementation date.
Underground Storage Tanks (USTs) and Other Management Strategies:
- EPA is working with states to increase the compliance rate with the spill, overfill, and corrosion portion of the UST regulations continue improving the quality of USTs.
- EPA is working with states on a multi-year effort to improve the compliance rate with the leak detection requirements.
- EPA and states are conducting an evaluation of UST systems performance to verify and validate how effectively leak detection and other UST systems are working; by 2002 EPA will have valuable data to decide whether the UST regulations need to be revised.
- EPA recommended that State UST/LUST officials (PDF) (4 pp, 16KB, January 2000) monitor and report MTBE and other ethers in ground water at all leaking UST sites. Where MTBE is detected, states are advised to take immediate and aggressive remedial action.
- EPA and states are developing a UST system operation and maintenance manual, available in late 2000, to help UST owners and operators understand and carry out good UST management practices to better prevent and detect leaks.
EPA is funding demonstration projects to determine the most effective approach to MTBE remediation. MTBE remediation research efforts are also currently underway by other organizations such as the American Petroleum Institute and U.C. Davis.
Numerous research projects are underway by government organizations, universities, and industry. Information about research projects regarding oxygenates (including MTBE) in water is discussed in Oxygenates in Water: Critical Information and Research Needs". Among the topics covered in this document are source characterization, transport, transformation, occurrence, exposure, aquatic toxicity, health effects, release prevention, and contaminant removal. Appendix 2 of the document lists several current or recent research projects in these topic areas.
Blue Ribbon Panel:
You can access additional documents related to the Blue Ribbon Panel from the following EPA Web sites:
Clean Air Act Committee, Office of Air and Radiation
This Web site provides background information on the formation, purpose, and members of the Blue Ribbon Panel.
Office of Transportation and Air Quality
This Web site contains documents produced by or for the panel, including its Final Report.