U.S. Water News Online
SAN FRANCISCO -- A San Francisco jury has found three oil
companies responsible for polluting Lake Tahoe groundwater with the
gasoline additive MTBE, and found that two of them were aware of the
chemical's dangers but withheld that information.
Shell Oil, Lyondell Chemical Co., which was formerly Arco, and
Tosco Corp. were found responsible for pollution. The San Francisco
Superior Court jury found that MTBE is a defective product and that
Shell and Lyondell withheld information about the chemical.
Damages will be assessed in a separate phase of the trial.
The South Tahoe Public Utility District sued the oil companies in
1998 after MTBE pollution forced it to close a third of its drinking
Water district lawyers used papers during the trial that they said
showed the companies knew that MTBE could move far and quickly
through water and that it could be tasted and smelled at very low
MTBE has been used as an oxygenate in gasoline to help certain
regions reach clean air standards.
The south Tahoe area has shallow wells, many in the vicinity of
gas station storage tanks, and quickly moving groundwater near the
surface that contributed to the chemical reaching drinking water
The cost to remove MTBE from the water supply is around $45
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