The Water Authority of Great Neck North, a party in a class action lawsuit, has been awarded an initial payout of $580,025 from an undisclosed major oil company. The lawsuit stemmed from discovery of MTBE contamination in monitoring wells with proven pathways to a specific oil company in an investigation by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
Methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE), an oxygenate, was mandated by Congress in 1990 to be added to gasoline in an effort to produce cleaner emissions and improve air quality. But in attempting to address one problem, another was born. MTBE is a volatile, flammable and colorless liquid that has a turpentine-like smell. Experts stress that MTBE mixes readily with water and, unlike many other contaminants, can move as quickly underground as water does. To make matters worse, it does not naturally biodegrade into harmless compounds. It has been implicated as a possible human carcinogen, and over time, it seeped into water supplies prompting a widespread public outcry. The use of MTBE has been phased out, but water companies are attempting to recoup the costs of cleaning MTBE out of the water supply by holding the oil companies accountable for traceable oil spills.
Superintendent of the Authority Robert Graziano told the Great Neck Record that the money has been channeled back into ongoing capital projects. There is a non-disclosure clause in the agreement, which requires that the specific oil company not be named.