California City Sues Over MTBE Contamination

July 1, 2000
Santa Monica, Calif., has filed suit against 18 oil companies for damages that could exceed $200 million, charging the firms polluted city drinking water wells with a possibly cancer-causing gasoline additive, MTBE.

Santa Monica, Calif., has filed suit against 18 oil companies for damages that could exceed $200 million, charging the firms polluted city drinking water wells with a possibly cancer-causing gasoline additive, MTBE.

Santa Monica officials are asking oil companies to pay clean-up and litigation costs. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has estimated removing the gasoline additive, methyl tertiary butyl ether, from the city's wells could cost $200 million.

MTBE, a key component of California's clean-burning gasoline blend, fell out of favor recently when a study found it contaminated water supplies and could cause cancer. California Gov. Gray Davis ordered it banned as of 2002.

Santa Monica Mayor Ken Genser said that for decades the city had provided drinking water from its own wells.

"Now, thanks to the oil industry, the city no longer can use most of its drinking water," he said in a statement. "The time has come for the oil industry to pay for the clean-up of its pollution and for the city to regain use of its most precious natural resource -- drinking water."

The companies being sued include Royal Dutch/Shell Oil Co., Texaco Inc., Chevron Corp., Exxon Mobil Corp., Tosco Corp., Ultramar Diamond Shamrock and Unocal Corp.

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