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Release Date: 9/22/1999
Contact Information: Randy Wittorp, U.S. EPA, 415-744-1589, LARWQCB, Karen Caesar, 213-576-6642

      Shell, Shell Oil Products and Equilon told to provide clean water to residents

     LOS ANGELES - To assure the continued flow of clean drinking water in Santa Monica, the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board ordered Shell Oil Company, Shell Oil Products Company and Equilon Enterprises LLC to provide replacement drinking water to the City of Santa Monica and Southern California Water Company due to MTBE contamination of the Charnock Sub-Basin drinking water.

     Both the City of Santa Monica and Southern California Water Company operated drinking water wells in West Los Angeles that were shut down in 1996 due to contamination by the gasoline additive, Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE.)  With seven wells out of service, Shell, Chevron, and Exxon have been reimbursing the City of Santa Monica and Southern California Water Company for water replacement costs.  The current agreement with the City of Santa Monica to provide water replacement is due to expire on January 6, 2000.

     "We believe it's important to require those who have contaminated a community's drinking water to provide replacement water," said Julie Anderson, regional director of the EPA's Waste Management Division.

     In the early 1990s, underground storage tanks at a service station operated by Shell released a large amount of gasoline containing MTBE.  The station is approximately one-half mile from Santa Monica's drinking water wells.  Both the EPA and the Regional Board have found that the releases from this station significantly contributed to the Charnock Sub-Basin drinking water problem.

     The EPA and the Regional Board plan to take additional enforcement actions to address MTBE groundwater pollution in the Charnock Sub-Basin, which is located in West Los Angeles and Culver City.  Of the 28 gasoline underground storage tank locations investigated in the area, at least 24 have leaked gasoline containing MTBE.

     "The agencies are continuing to investigate the causes of MTBE pollution and intend to ensure that all responsible parties contribute to its clean up," stated James Kuykendall, assistant Executive Officer of the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board.

     Details on the agencies' enforcement actions and the MTBE pollution affecting the Santa Monica water wells can be found in the news section on  the Regional Board's Web site at and EPA's Web site at .