Explorer Gas Company Pipeline Incident






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Workers Race To Contain Huge Gas Spill Before It Reaches Lake
Half-million-gallon overflow threatens Dallas' drinking water supply


Article By: Randy Lee Loftis / Environmental Writer of The Dallas Morning News
Published 03-12-2000

WAGNER, Texas - Foiled Friday by heavy rain and lightning, salvage crews struggled Saturday to stop a half-million-gallon gasoline spill that spread down a creek toward Lake Tawakoni, a drinking water supply for Dallas and other cities

Dallas closed its water intake at the lake as a precaution, Dallas Water Utilities inspectors on the scene said. Crews were trying to keep any gasoline from reaching the lake, but it wasn't known by late Saturday whether that effort would succeed.

Lines of storms that moved across the flat Hunt County farmland Friday morning filled East Caddo Creek beyond its banks, bursting through temporary floating dams that crews had used to span the creek since a 24-inch pipeline broke about midnight Friday.

The water "built up and built up and pretty much washed out every dam we had," said Greg Fife, on-scene coordinator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

A heavy odor of gasoline filled the air at the creek's crossing at Interstate 30, about four miles southwest of Greenville and about 10 miles downstream from the spill site.

Storms that had frustrated salvage attempts Friday morning and afternoon yielded Saturday to clear skies that threatened no rain. But the damage from the previous downpours, which cut visibility almost to zero, was done.

As salvage workers watched the rain-swollen creek carry away their efforts to contain the spill Friday, they faced a potential danger to themselves - lightning.

Gasoline fumes reached potentially explosive levels in some places, meaning that a single strike into the creek might have set off a fiery catastrophe that could have killed workers and started a pipeline blaze, Mr. Fife said.

At times, officials had to call off the effort to recover gasoline, he said.

"We had a choice between protecting a water supply and protecting lives," he said. Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board, which probes pipeline accidents, were at the spill site Saturday searching for the cause of the leak.

The pipeline's owner and operator is Explorer Pipeline Co. of Tulsa, Okla. The line, built in 1973 and last tested three years ago, is buried about four feet underground.

Crews from the pipeline company arrived with digging equipment and new sections of pipe to start preparing to repair the line. Petroleum tank trucks arrived to haul off contaminated water pumped from the creek.

At FM3211, about five miles south of the spill site, two tank trucks were pumping contaminated water from the creek's surface. Several flexible yellow booms crossed the creek, holding back the gasoline so the pumps could retrieve it.

However, gasoline was visible in the water as it passed the booms, forming distinctive swirls of petroleum sheen on the swift-moving water. Tank truck operators said more trucks were trying to retrieve gasoline farther downstream.

The first sign of trouble came about midnight Friday when the pipeline' s monitors detected a drop in pressure. Local residents reported smelling gasoline in the creek.

The spill occurred about 10 miles northwest of Greenville in a sparsely populated rural area. Mr. Fife said most homes in the area are served by public water supplies and faced no apparent threat from the spill.

Crews from Garner Environmental of Fort Worth were putting two temporary dams in place by about 4 a.m. Friday, and had two more up by about 9 a.m., Mr. Fife said.

That early work apparently succeeded. The dams closest to the spill were holding back pure gasoline, while those farther downstream had only water, he said.

Then the rain came, lasting about two hours. Trucks, hauling collection tanks, nearly slid off a dirt road. By that time, Mr. Fife said, the gasoline was heading downstream.

"What we had was basically a river flowing with gasoline in it, " he said. If gasoline reached the lake, Mr. Fife said, the actual petroleum in the water would be the short-term concern for water supplies. In the longer term, worries might focus on a gasoline additive known as MTBE.

MTBE is an additive meant to help clean the air in polluted urban areas such as North Texas. The substance is a significant threat to water supplies, however, and the EPA is phasing it out.

"We're trying as hard as we can to keep it out of the lake," Mr. Fife said. "If it gets down there, there could be a problem."

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Rain Could Jeopardize Gas-Spill Cleanup
Pipeline rupture taints E. Caddo Creek; city closes water intake at Lake Tawakoni


Article By: Steve Miller / Staff Writer of The Dallas Morning News
Published 03-13-2000

WAGNER, Texas - A gasoline cleanup effort on a tributary to one of Dallas' water supplies could be hampered if rain forecast for Tuesday comes.

"Right now, the gasoline is not running very quickly," Greg Fife, on-scene coordinator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said Sunday. "But if we get the predicted rain on Tuesday, it could make it in a day without additional preventative measures."

The EPA is one of several federal, state and local agencies involved in the cleanup of East Caddo Creek, which feeds into Lake Tawakoni. About 500,000 gallons of gasoline spilled into the creek from a burst pipeline early Friday, washing over a rural area of cattle farms and fields about 35 miles northeast of Dallas.

The fuel has been contained about four miles north of the lake. It has traveled eight miles since the spill.

Mr. Fife said crews will reinforce three temporary dams erected to stem the flow of the gasoline in case the rains are heavy.

About half of the fuel has been cleaned up, Mr. Fife said.

So far, tests show that the lake is free of contamination, according to Mike Rickman, assistant director of water operations for Dallas.

The city was concerned about the presence of MTBE, a gasoline additive used to help clean the air in urban areas. The chemical is water-soluble, and cleansing a water supply of it is expensive, Mr. Fife said.

"So far, we are looking very good," Mr. Rickman said Sunday afternoon. "We found no MTBE."

The city has shut down its water intake at the lake, which provides between 25 percent and 30 percent of Dallas' water supply.

Mr. Rickman said that tests of the lake water and its feeder creeks will continue during the cleanup, which is projected to take about two weeks.

Cleanup crews were hampered by storms Friday that combined precipitation with the gasoline and sent the mixture over creek banks, destroying dams crews had erected to contain the contamination.

Also as a result of the rains, dozens of pools of gasoline- tainted water are scattered throughout the bed of the creek. Sunday, stationary tankers were being loaded with fuel pumped from nearby creeks and pools.

The threat to a drinking-water supply gave the cleanup a sense of urgency, Mr. Fife said.

"Any time you have something like this, everybody is going to get involved," Mr. Fife said. "It's a pretty big deal."

The owner of the pipeline, Explorer Pipeline Co. of Tulsa, Okla., is responsible for the cost of the cleanup, according to its lawyer.

The gasoline represented about 2 percent of the daily flow through the 1,400-mile-long pipeline, which extends from the Gulf Coast to Chicago.

"We pump about 535,000 barrels of product through that pipeline every day," said Curtis Craig, general counsel for Explorer. "That spill was 12,000 barrels."

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Toxins Found In Source For Dallas Water
EPA see low- level pollution in Lake Tawakoni after spill


Article By: Brenda Rodriguez / Staff Writer of The Dallas Morning News
Published 03-14-2000

Authorities said Monday that contamination from last week's half-million- gallon gasoline spill is beginning to show up in Lake Tawakoni, a major water supply for Dallas.

But they stressed that the gasoline additive MTBE had not reached hazardous levels.

David Bary, a spokesman for the Dallas office of the Environmental Protection Agency, said that sampling of Lake Tawakoni, which provides 25 percent to 30 percent of Dallas' water supply, indicated low levels of the additive used to help clean the air in urban areas.

"They are finding MTBE in Lake Tawakoni, but at levels, I want to emphasize this, at levels that are very way, way, below any health- based concerns," Mr. Bary said. "We'll have to wait and see the extent of the contamination and the authorities will have to decide at that point in time, given the information they have then, what is necessary. It is very premature to speculate what we would do because frankly we don't yet know what needs to be done."

MTBE is water-soluble, and cleansing a water supply of it is expensive, officials said.

The city of Dallas shut its intake from the lake Friday. The community of West Tawakoni had temporarily shut its intake from the lake Monday, but it restarted its water plant after tests indicated that the levels were not hazardous, according to West Tawakoni Mayor Ron Tanoos.

About 500,000 gallons of gasoline spilled into East Caddo Creek north of Lake Tawakoni from a break in a pipeline early Friday. The spilled fuel has been contained behind booms and dams about four miles north of the lake. EPA officials said the MTBE may have gotten into the lake by flowing in the water under the booms.

Mike Rickman, assistant director of water operations for Dallas, said the contamination showed up in samples taken in the northern edge of Lake Tawakoni where East Caddo Creek enters the lake. He said Dallas gets its water supply from the southwest corner of the lake, which hasn't indicated signs of contamination. While its intake from the lake is shut down, Dallas is performing annual maintenance on its pumps, he said.

"We are still very concerned about it because we are worried about the overall impact it may have on the lake," Mr. Rickman said.

Cleanup efforts continue at the spill site, which is west of Greenville, and could last at least a week, officials said. Mr. Bary said that about 8,000 of the 12,000 barrels of gasoline that spilled have been recovered. Each barrel contains about 42 gallons of gasoline.

"That leaves 4,000 barrels of product unaccounted for, and we are sure that some of that has evaporated and some of it has seeped into soils," he said. "We'll continue cleanup efforts."

Predicted rain Tuesday could slow the cleanup work, officials have said.

The pipeline's owner and operator is Explorer Pipeline Co. of Tulsa, Okla. The line, built in 1973 and last tested three years ago, is buried about 4 feet underground.

The gasoline represented about 2 percent of the daily flow through the 1,400-mile-long pipeline from Louisiana to Indiana.

The company plans to send a portion of the pipeline that broke to the National Transportation Safety Board in Washington, D.C., for analysis, said Lauren Brookey, a spokeswoman for Explorer Pipeline.

Meanwhile, officials have begun to assess the damage left from the spill. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department authorities said several animals - including two raccoons, a skunk and a turtle - were found dead, possibly as a result of the fumes or from drinking water with high concentrations of gasoline.

"The good side of that, again, is this creek is normally dry where the concentrations were real, real high, and there was no wildlife there," said Capt. Garry Collins, game warden for the Dallas district that includes Hunt County. "There was hardly any wildlife present."

Determining the damage to the land and vegetation will take longer, Capt. Collins said. "It's going to be a long-term assessment," he said.

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Lake Showing No More Traces Of Contamination
Gas additive 'barely detectable' after cleanup


Article By: Brenda Rodriguez / Staff Writer of The Dallas Morning News
Published 03-15-2000

Authorities didn't detect any more traces of a gasoline additive in Lake Tawakoni on Tuesday as the cleanup of last week's half-million- gallon gasoline spill continued.

Moderate showers didn't slow down cleanup efforts. A pipeline break early Friday spilled 500,000 gallons of gasoline into a wheat field and the East Caddo creek.

Officials said Monday that samples of water in the northern edge of the lake where the creek runs into it indicated low levels of the gasoline additive MTBE. But on Tuesday authorities said the levels were barely detectable because of a combination of factors, such as the cleanup efforts and no water flow from the creek.

Greg Fife, on-scene coordinator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said the level of MTBE had "dropped even farther which is very, very good news.

"In the exact same spot, they dropped to almost negligible amounts . . . just barely above the detection level," Mr. Fife said.

"We are really in the mop-up and reclamation phase," he said.

The lake, owned and operated by the Sabine River Authority, supplies water to more than 10 cities and water corporations including Dallas, Greenville, Commerce, West Tawakoni and Cash Water Supply. Some cities have shut down their intake systems from the lake as a precaution, while others have continued to receive their supply.

The cities of Dallas and Greenville have shut down their intakes.

The lake provides Dallas with 25 percent to 30 percent of the city' s water supply. It shut down its intake Friday as a precaution and is performing annual maintenance on its pumps.

The pumps for the city of Greenville, which gets 40 percent of its supply from the lake, automatically shut down Friday due to the bad weather. It remained shut down Tuesday as a precaution.

Mr. Fife said Commerce had shut down its intake temporarily, but was planning to open it back up Wednesday. Commerce receives as much as 50 percent of its water supply from the lake.

Customers of Cash Water Supply, which serves an area near the lake, continue to get all their water from the lake.

The city of West Tawakoni had temporarily shut its intake Monday, but restarted it a short time later after officials determined that there was no danger. The city gets 100 percent of its water supply from the lake.

"We are continuing to sample . . . and will be collecting samples probably for the next few days until all this is cleared up," said Jack Tatum, development coordinator for the Sabine River Authority. "Everything is looking good."

Mr. Tatum said no permanent damage to the lake is expected because of the minimal MTBE contamination. MTBE, which is used to help clean the air in urban areas, is water-soluble, and cleansing a water supply of it could be expensive, officials said.

"As far as the lake is considered, we are in good shape," he said.

The spilled fuel has been contained behind booms and dams about four miles north of the lake. EPA officials said the MTBE may have gotten into the lake by flowing in the water under the booms.

"We haven't found anything to lead us to believe that it would cause harm to any of our water customers," said Shirley Smith, business manager for Cash Water Supply. "Of course we are concerned and we are monitoring, I mean we are not taking this lightly."

The pipeline's owner and operator is Explorer Pipeline Co. of Tulsa, Okla. The line, built in 1973 and last tested three years ago, is buried about 4 feet underground.

The company plans to send a portion of the pipeline that broke to the National Transportation and Safety Board in Washington D.C. for analysis, officials said.

The gasoline represented about 2 percent of the daily flow through the 1,400-mile-long pipeline from the Gulf Coast to Indiana.

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Gas Spill Forces Water Shut-Off
Fresh supply to be trucked to West Tawakoni residents


Article By: Brenda Rodriguez / Staff Writer of The Dallas Morning News
Published 03-16-2000

West Tawakoni's water supply was shut off late Wednesday as tests revealed that contamination from a half-million-gallon gasoline spill is worse than previously thought, authorities said.

Plans are under way to truck in fresh water for residents along the west shore of Lake Tawakoni, although there is no immediate health threat, said Tom Kelley, spokesman for the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission.

"It's not really a health concern, but it's not water you'd want to drink, because you can smell it and taste it," Mr. Kelley said. The lake provides water for more than 10 cities and water companies, including West Tawakoni and Dallas, which has had its intake cut off since shortly after the gas spill occurred Friday.

Mr. Kelley said tests Wednesday showed that gas containing MTBE - an additive used to clean the air - was present in levels higher than reported earlier in the day around West Tawakoni's intake valves at the lake. More precise levels of contamination weren't expected to be known until Thursday, he said.

The gas apparently flowed into the lake before booms were set up to prevent contamination. The 500,000 gallons of gas poured out of a broken pipeline in a Hunt County wheat field and into East Caddo Creek, which feeds the lake.

Mr. Kelley said he thought that West Tawakoni had about a day and a half's supply of fresh water available. He said the intake would need to be closed for "a day or two, three days for sure" while cleanup efforts continue and the MTBE dilutes.

"We're not taking any chances . . . we're getting them to haul in water starting now," Mr. Kelley said.

Earlier, authorities had thought that there was little contamination of the lake. Most communities had already closed their intake valves at the lake as a precaution.

The small community of Emory on the east side of Lake Tawakoni is still drawing water from it, but Mr. Kelley said Emory's intake is so distant from the polluted area that its water is drinkable.

The contamination has been spreading toward West Tawakoni for several days. Hours earlier Wednesday, authorities had thought that the tedious cleanup had gone so well that it was "down to really kind of a minor spill response," said Greg Fife, on- scene coordinator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Authorities said then that cleanup efforts were expected to last two more weeks.

Absorbent pads and vacuum trucks are being used to clean up the fuel. Four hundred to 500 gallons are left to be recovered from the major portion of the spill, which was contained behind booms in East Caddo Creek about four miles from the lake.

"We do have a lot of people out there collecting it. It's getting into the labor-intensive phase of it," Mr. Fife said. "They may be cleaning up little by little for over the next couple weeks."

He said the conservation commission will determine in the next few days how to clean up the fuel in the wheat field.

Officials said Wednesday that MTBE in that area was barely above the detection level and posed no health threat.

Dallas usually gets 25 percent to 30 percent of its water from the lake, but city water officials are using the temporary stoppage to do routine maintenance in the area.

Officials with the Sabine River Authority, which owns and operates the lake, said no permanent damage to the lake is expected.

Meanwhile, Explorer Pipeline Co. of Tulsa, Okla., owner of the pipeline, was given the go-ahead by federal authorities to resume pumping gasoline through the repaired line, which runs from the Gulf Coast to Indiana.

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West Tawakoni Gets Shipment Of Water
Chemical levels safe after spill, officials say


By Brenda Rodriguez / Staff Writer of The Dallas Morning News
Published 03-17-2000

Thousands of gallons of water were hauled into a small Hunt County town Thursday after its water supply from Lake Tawakoni was shut off. The supply showed signs of contamination from a gasoline spill last week.

Authorities said that even though high levels of the gasoline additive MTBE - used to clean air - were detected in the northwestern reach of the lake, it still did not pose a health threat.

"We are not talking about a health issue here, even at those high levels. . . . We are talking about real taste and odor problems," said Tom Kelley, spokesman for the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission. "The concern is taste and odor. . . . Nobody wants to drink water that has a turpentine flavor."

Tanker trucks filled with water from Dallas and Sulphur Springs were being brought to West Tawakoni and the water was to be pumped into the town's storage facility. Additionally, a water tanker truck was parked at City Hall so the town's 930 residents could fill containers, city officials said.

West Tawakoni officials shut down the town's intake valves from the lake at about 9 p.m. Wednesday.

Mr. Kelley said it is difficult to know whether the MTBE would spread to other parts of the lake. That's why they will continue to take samples and monitor the situation, he said. There were no other reports of contamination at the lake as of Thursday afternoon.

Levels of 271 parts per billion of MTBE were detected late Wednesday at West Tawakoni's water utility intake at the lake, authorities said. According to the TNRCC, drinking water containing levels as high as 240 parts per billion of MTBE over a lifetime would not have adverse health effects. Significantly higher levels for short-term exposure would also be without adverse health effects, TNRCC officials said. But levels as low as 15 parts per billion could cause odor and taste problems in drinking water.

Dick Gillespie, city administrator for West Tawakoni, said town officials have been flooded with telephone calls from residents who want to know whether it is safe to drink the water. His answer: yes.

West Tawakoni gets all of its water from the lake. Officials are asking residents to conserve as much as possible.

"We have it rigged up to where the tanker trucks can empty into the storage system. That way the customers do not lose any water, any supply," Mr. Gillespie said. "We have not hit a panic button at this point in time."

He said the situation is under control, adding that he did not know how long the city's intake would be shut down.

A manager at a grocery store said residents have been buying bottled water since the contamination along the northern edge of the lake was first reported this week. The manager, who did not want to be named, described residents as concerned.

The lake provides water for more than 10 cities, towns and water companies, including West Tawakoni and Dallas. Dallas, which gets 25 to 30 percent of its water from the lake, has had its intake cut off since shortly after the gas spill.

A pipeline, owned by Explorer Pipeline Co. of Tulsa, Okla., broke early Friday and spilled about 500,000 gallons of gasoline into a wheat field and into East Caddo Creek. Most of the gasoline has been stopped by booms in the creek about four miles upstream from the lake, and absorbent pads and vacuum trucks are being used to clean up the fuel.

Low-level MTBE contamination was first found Monday in the area where the East Caddo Creek runs into the lake . Higher levels were discovered Wednesday.

"The numbers were looking real good. The numbers from the creek where it comes into the lake, those had dropped down. We were thinking we were in good shape," said Jack Tatum, development coordinator with the Sabine River Authority, which owns and operates the lake.

"We are hoping as this [the MTBE] moves through into the lake it is going to dissipate and the numbers will drop," Mr. Tatum said.

A portable lab for testing samples from the lake has been set up at West Tawakoni, officials said.

"We are continuing to monitor," he said. "It's been a night- and-day activity."

David Bary, spokesman for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said crews are continuing and concluding their "mop up" along the East Caddo Creek. Officials said they think that last week's heavy rains pushed the plume containing the compound downstream quickly before special dams could be constructed.

"The timing of the storm [last Friday] was such that there was simply not enough time to get adequate barriers in place and those that were in place were simply washed away," Mr. Bary said. "The only way to have prevented MTBE from entering the lake through the creek was to have an impenetrable wall at the mouth of the creek . . . or at a point further up the creek. That was something that was simply unavailable to the responders last Friday at the time that the storm hit."

Last year, a government advisory panel and the EPA recommended to Congress that the use of MTBE be reduced substantially because it dissolves easily in water and turns up in tap water when gasoline has leaked or spilled.

MTBE is used in so-called reformulated gasoline required by the EPA in all or parts of 16 states, including Texas. That accounts for about a third of the gasoline sold in the nation.

In addition, the additive has been shown to cause cancer in animals, even though it is not clear to researchers whether those findings are applicable to people. It can be smelled at very low concentrations, and it makes water smell so bad that most will refuse to drink it.

That is one reason California last March ordered oil companies to phase out the additive by 2002. A University of California study showed that the additive has affected at least 10,000 ground-water sites throughout that state.

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Water Worries Ease In West Tawakoni
City is monitoring as contamination levels drop in lake


By Brenda Rodriguez / Staff Writer of The Dallas Morning News
Published 03-18-2000

WEST TAWAKONI, Texas - As he grilled hash browns Friday morning, Ron Allen said he doesn't think authorities would be "blowing smoke" about the severity of the contamination at Lake Tawakoni.

Andy Scott / The Dallas Morning News

West Tawakoni city administrator Dick Gillespie says tankers have been supplying water since the gas spill.

"I try to respect authority, but you know . . .," he said as he mixed a bowl of eggs in the kitchen of the Fillin Station restaurant. "They told us there wasn't any danger. . . . I believe they would let us know."

Mr. Allen, the Fillin Station's owner, says it has been business as usual.

The city shut down its water intake valves from Lake Tawakoni late Wednesday after authorities detected the gasoline additive MTBE - used to clean air - in the northwestern reach of the lake. The contamination stems from a half-million- gallon gasoline spill last week at a wheat field and the East Caddo Creek near the lake.

Thousands of gallons of water have been brought in tanker trucks and pumped into the city's water storage facility. Residents' taps have not run dry, but the situation remains a concern, officials said.

"I don't see us being without service," West Tawakoni Mayor Don Tanoos said. "We don't see any real harm to the situation. Don't get me wrong, we are monitoring around the clock."

The mayor said the city chose to shut its intake as a precaution. As of Friday afternoon, the city was using three trucks and expected to get more to make quicker turnarounds.

Everybody in the area is helping as much as they can," said Dick Gillespie, city administrator, adding that they are receiving water from Dallas, East Tawakoni and an area water corporation, Combined Consumers Water Supply. MTBE has been detected in the northwestern arm of the lake, near West Tawakoni's intake.

To keep residents informed, authorities had a town meeting Thursday, and letters were sent out asking people to conserve water. The letters said: " DESPITE THE MANY RUMORS GOING AROUND THE WATER IS SAFE TO DRINK & USE . . ."

Authorities have said that the MTBE level detected does not present a health threat but does cause a taste and odor problem.

A water tanker truck was parked at City Hall on Friday so the town's more than 1,000 residents could fill containers.

At the Fillin Station, Mr. Allen said that even though the situation seems to be under control, he is concerned about possible long-term effects.

"I don't think anyone knows the extent of the damage," he said after serving food to workers who pumped water all night at the nearby water-storage facility.

The Sabine River Authority, which owns and operates the lake, has said no permanent damage is expected at the lake, which provides water for more than 10 cities, towns and water companies, including Dallas.

Dallas, which gets 25 percent to 30 percent of its water from the lake, closed its intake shortly after the gas spill.

Tom Kelley, a spokesman for the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission, said samples near West Tawakoni's intake Friday showed a drop to between 100 parts and 150 parts per billion of MTBE. Authorities were reporting 271 parts per billion in the same area Thursday.

He cautioned that the levels could go up again but that no more contamination had been detected at the lake.

The TNRCC wants Explorer Pipeline Co. of Tulsa, Okla., which owns the gasoline pipeline that broke and leaked, to use more aggressive water-treatment methods - such as carbon filtration or aeration - to speed up the removal of MTBE from East Caddo Creek. The commission wants at least 90 percent of the additive removed from the water in the creek, officials said.

Tom Ott moved to West Tawakoni about eight years ago, attracted by the lakefront property and nearby golf course. When he heard about the contamination, he decided not to take a chance and bought bottled water.

"I found out a long time ago that there is no use in worrying over things you can't control," Mr. Ott said.

But he said he gets "concerned when someone says it's all right to drink the water, but don't inhale the fumes."

He jokingly added: "I've warned them [residents] all not to smoke in the shower."

Mr. Ott said people are concerned, but no one is panicking.

"I am confident that eventually old Mother Nature will just wash it out," he said.

Grocery store owner Frank Slovacek agreed, saying that in about two weeks things would be back to normal. Mr. Slovacek said some residents have bought bottled water, but not many.

"The government's got it under control. . . . This is just one little episode that happened," Mr. Slovacek said.

Down the road on State Highway 276 at Oakley's restaurant, owner Margaret Oakley stocked up on bottled water in case customers requested it.

But, like most residents in this shore-side town, she said there was not much worry.

"People are just going along as always," she said, standing near the grill. "I trust the city's water supply."

Last year, a government advisory panel and the EPA recommended to Congress that the use of MTBE be reduced substantially because it dissolves easily in water and turns up in tap water when gasoline has leaked or spilled.

MTBE is used in so-called reformulated gasoline required by the EPA in all or parts of 16 states, including Texas. That accounts for about a third of the gasoline sold in the country.

In addition, the additive has been shown to cause cancer in animals, even though it is not clear to researchers whether those findings are applicable to people. It can be smelled at very low concentrations, and it makes water smell so bad that most will refuse to drink it.

That is one reason California last March ordered oil companies to phase out the additive by 2002. A University of California study showed that the additive has affected at least 10,000 ground-water sites throughout that state.

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West Tawakoni Continues Hauling In Water After Spill
Levels of gas additive have decreased, officials say


By Brenda Rodriguez / Staff Writer of The Dallas Morning News
Published 03-23-2000

The lake shore city of West Tawakoni continued to truck in thousands of gallons of water Wednesday after detection of contamination from a gasoline spill last week.

The city shut down its intake from Lake Tawakoni last week after authorities detected the gasoline additive methyl tertiary butyl ether, known as MTBE, in the northwestern parts of the lake. On Wednesday, authorities said levels of MTBE, which has been found to reduce polluting emissions, had decreased.

The contamination followed a half-million-gallon gasoline spill March 10 at a wheat field and East Caddo Creek near the lake.

"We are still hauling water in by transport," said Dick Gillespie, city administrator. "Still pumping it into the system."

Mr. Gillespie said the city is going to use a special filtration system. They will test the system first, and if the water shows no trace of MTBE, then the city will re-open the intake, he said.

Explorer Pipeline of Tulsa, Okla., which owns and operates the pipeline that broke, supplied the city with the filtration system.

The Sabine River Authority, which owns and operates the lake, has said no permanent damage is expected at the lake, which provides water for more than 10 cities, towns and water companies, including Dallas.

Dallas, which gets 25 percent to 30 percent of its water from the lake, closed its intake shortly after the gas spill.

On Monday, the Clinton administration announced that it will seek to ban MTBE as a gasoline additive on grounds it poses a risk to public health and the environment. Officials said the chemical is a possible carcinogen.

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