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CV Water District to receive about $22.7 million in federal lawsuit over gasoline additive in groundwater

September 05, 2013|By Brittany Levine, brittany.levine@latimes.com

Nearly six years after filing a federal lawsuit against seven companies and their related counterparts for allegedly contaminating the local groundwater supply with a gasoline additive, the Crescenta Valley Water District has finally settled with the businesses for a combined sum of roughly $22.7 million.

U.S. District Judge Josephine Staton Tucker signed off on settlements for four of the seven as of last month. The other three have filed settlement documents with the court but they have yet to be approved by the judge.

Since all seven — Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips, BP, Lyondell Chemical, Shell, Valero and Chevron — have submitted settlements, a Sept. 10 jury trial has been suspended, said Tom Bunn, the water district’s attorney.

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The final settlement total is less than half of the roughly $50 million the district asked for when it sued the companies.
Exxon Mobil:
$4.5 million

ConocoPhillips: $4 million

BP: $4 million

Lyondell Chemical: $700,000

Valero: $3.85 million

Shell: $4.5 million

Chevron: $1.1 million
District officials first detected the gasoline additive Methyl Tertiary-butyl Ether in the ground near several gas stations along Foothill Boulevard, as well as in well water, in 2004. District officials then shut down two wells after MTBE levels exceeded the state contaminant limit of 5 parts per billion and reached, at points, beyond 50 parts per billion. Once the MTBE levels dropped, the wells returned to service without any treatment, according to court records.

Water contaminated by MTBE has a foul taste and odor. While the health hazards of low doses of the additive are unknown, in high quantities it’s a potential carcinogen, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. MTBE was used to oxygenate gasoline.

Despite the MTBE detection, district officials have said the water distributed to their 8,000 customers is safe to drink. As of January 2012, the district had spent more than $5 million on the MTBE issue, including paying for imported water to replace the tainted supplies. An engineering expert hired by the district estimated that installing and operating filters to strip MTBE from the groundwater would cost about $47 million.

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