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Chemosphere. 2003 Jun;51(8):805-10.

Determination of MTBE in a recreational harbor using solid-phase microextraction.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry, Pepperdine University, 24255 Pacific Coast Highway, 90263, Malibu, CA, USA.


Discovery of the fuel additive methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) in groundwater, surface water, and stormwater has prompted studies of its sources, transport and fate. More limited data, however, is available on the extent of contamination of coastal waters, as well as the persistence of MTBE in the marine environment. We apply here the combination of solid phase microextraction and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry to the detection of sub-to-low microgram/l concentrations of MTBE in seawater samples. Analysis of samples collected at the Marina del Rey harbor, a shallow recreational harbor near Los Angeles, CA, show MTBE contamination in the low microgram/l level. MTBE measurements were made at different depths, from the surface to the bottom, at five sites within the harbor during months showing no measurable precipitation. The highest concentration of MTBE (18 microgram/l) was found at the boat launching ramp, and the lowest (0.2 microgram/l) near the harbor entrance, approximately 2.3 km from the ramp. The levels of MTBE measured, as well as their variation over the study period, are fully consistent with recreational boating as the primary source of contamination. No evidence for MTBE contamination from the adjacent stormwater control channel was noted.

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