Earlier today we received an inquiry from 'FloydG' who asked, " I was looking at the WaterSafe city and well test kits and need to know if one of them or both of them can test for MTBE. Thanks."
MTBE gets categorized as a volatile organic compound (VOC) and as such cannot get detected by do-it-yourself home water test kits like the WaterSafe City Water Test Kit and WaterSafe Well Water Test Kit.
Good afternoon. I do not know which kit you looked at, but I can tell you that only lab testing can detect and quantify levels of MTBE. Both City-Check and Well-Check Standard and Deluxe version include testing for MTBE.
- City Check Standard Water Test Kit
- City Check Deluxe Water Test Kit
- Well Check Standard Water Test Kit
- Well Check Deluxe Water Test Kit
What is MTBE?
MTBE(methyl tertiary-butyl ether) is a chemical compound used almost exclusively used as a fuel additive in motor gasoline. It belongs to a family of compounds commonly referred to as "oxygenates" because they raise the oxygen content of gasoline to improve (reduce) tailpipe emissions from automobiles.
At room temperature one can expect to see MTBE as a volatile, flammable and colorless liquid that dissolves relatively easily in water.
Why was it used?
In the United States MTBE served as a replacement for lead (circa 1979) as an octane enhancer to reduce the amount of 'knocking' taking place in car engines and got added to fuel at low concentrations. Later the amount of MTBE added to cars increased as government restrictions on unwanted tailpipe emissions such as benzene and sulfur became more strict and as refineries realized how easily it could blend with their fuel products and at what (lower) cost they could add it to their products.
How does MTBE get into the environment?
The main way in which MTBE enters the environment: Spillage.
Anywhere gasoline or raw MTBE gets stored, handled, transferred or used presents opportunities for MTBE to find its way into the environment. Many safeguards and strictly enforced regulations exist to minimize the amount of MTBE that leaks or spills but unfortunately no method exists to fully eliminate MTBE spills.
Drinking water sources may become contaminated with MTBE from underground and above ground leaking fuel storage tanks, old or damaged fuel pipelines, during vehicle refueling, when automobile accidents damage gas tanks, when the general public improperly disposes of fuel, older marine engine emissions, and from storm water runoff and precipitation that became contaminated with MTBE in the air (note: Experts do not view this last method of contamination as a major cause of MTBE contamination).