A Gasoline Additive Lingers in New York's Drinking Water

Twelve years ago, when a new gasoline additive held the promise of reducing air pollution, New York State made a huge bet that the technology would work. It supported the use of the additive, M.T.B.E., to be mixed with gasoline at some of the highest concentrations in the nation, from 12 to 15 percent, while also allowing the additive to be used in parts of the state where air pollution was less of a problem. But six years later, when studies began to show that the chemical was a potential carcinogen, state officials realized that by trying to clean the air, they may have seriously damaged the water supply. M.T.B.E. had been leaching into the underground water table from thousands of gas tanks, and now the state has more than 13,000 spills that must be cleaned up, one of the worst cases of drinking-water pollution in the nation, experts say.


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