January 26, 2000
Health Department to test for MTBE at no charge

Beginning March 1, the Nebraska Health and Human Services System's community water supply program will test state public drinking water supplies for a gasoline derivative called MTBE (methy teritary-butyl ether).

The test will be added to a current scan for gasoline derivatives so water operators will not have to take any additional samples, said Jack Daniel, administrator of the Environmental Health Services Section. There will be no charge to water systems. The test will cost the state about 49 cents each.

MTBE is added to gasoline to reduce pollution. It is not a contaminant regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, however it is being considered for addition to the regulated list.

"Communities will benefit from knowing if MTBE is present in their system," said Daniel. "This will put them in a position to get ready to act if MTBE is added to the EPA's contaminant list in 2001."

Testing for MTBE only upon request from concerned communities was considered, however the cost would have been about $35 for each request. The benefit of testing all public systems for the gasoline derivative greatly outweighed the cost when it was figured across the board, said Daniel.

MTBE is not believed to be a big problem in the state because of Nebraska's high use of ethanol instead of MTBE. Testing for the derivative will provide additional information about the scope of the problem.

For more information, contact Daniel at 402.471.0510.

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