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Environ Sci Technol. 2002 Jan 15;36(2):125-9.

MTBE ambient water quality criteria development: a public/private partnership.

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  • 1ARCO, Los Angeles, California 90071, USA.


A public/private partnership was established in 1997, under the administrative oversight of the American Petroleum Institute (API), to develop aquatic toxicity data sufficient to calculate ambient water quality criteria for methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE), a gasoline oxygenate. The MTBE Water Quality Criteria Work Group consisted of representatives from private companies, trade associations, and USEPA. Funding was provided by the private entities, while aquatic biological/toxicological expertise was provided by industry and USEPA scientists. This public/private partnership constituted a nonadversarial, cost-effective, and efficient process for generating the toxicity data necessary for deriving freshwater and marine ambient water quality criteria. Existing aquatic toxicity data were evaluated for acceptability, consistent with USEPA guidance, and nineteen freshwater and marine tests were conducted by commercial laboratories as part of this effort to satisfy the federal criteria database requirements. Definitive test data were developed and reported under the oversight of industry study monitors and Good Laboratory Practice standards auditors, and with USEPA scientists participating in advisory and critical review roles. Calculated, preliminary freshwater criteria for acute (Criterion Maximum Concentration) and chronic (Criterion Continuous Concentration) exposure effect protection are 151 and 51 mg MTBE/L, respectively. Calculated, preliminary marine criteria for acute and chronic exposure effect protection are 53 and 18 mg MTBE/L, respectively. These criteria values may be used for surface water quality management purposes, and they indicate that ambient MTBE concentrations documented in U. S. surface waters to date do not constitute a risk to aquatic organisms.

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