The Danish Environmental Protection Agency is drafting an action plan to tackle groundwater pollution by the oxygenate petrol additive, MTBE. The chemical is added to some unleaded petrol to make it burn more efficiently and reduce carbon monoxide emissions. According to the agency's director, Erik Lindegaard, while the extent of groundwater contamination is Denmark is unclear, the agency is convinced by reports of problems in the USA and by the quantity of MTBE consumed in Denmark - 47,000 tonnes in 1996 - that the chemical should be treated with caution. MTBE is suspected to be a human carcinogen. The agency wants to adopt an MTBE action plan by May. It is likely to include three broad aspects: a survey of petrol stations to identify the extent of emissions and spillages; a dialogue with refiners and petrol suppliers to identify alternatives to MTBE and analyse their benefits and drawbacks; and a new limit on the concentration of MTBE in groundwater. This is likely to be set at 30 micrograms per lit re - far below the toxicity threshold. The limit has been designed to avoid taste and odour problems with MTBE in water, which manifest at very low concentrations.
Danish Environmental Protection Agency, tel: +45 32 66 01 00.
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