New Method For Detecting Trace Amounts of MTBE

Document Sample
New Method For Detecting Trace Amounts of MTBE Powered By Docstoc
					 VOL.   32,   No.4                                  UNL WATER CENTER                                            AUGUST     2000




                              ater
                                                                                urrent
New Method For Detecting Trace Amounts of MTBE
and Ethanol at Heart ofUNL Contamination Research
by Steve Ress                                                        with ethanol, which also reduces harmful vehicle emis-
                                                                     sions, are considered small.
     Gasoline additives that help keep our air clean can                 "Although ethanol is the same alcohol consumed in
contaminate the water we drink. But they can be diffi-               alcoholic beverages, the effect of alcohol spills on bene-
cult to find when they get into our water supplies.                  ficial groundwater bacteria is unknown. There is con-
     University of Nebraska-Lincoln researchers have                 cern that ethanol could negatively impact the ability of
developed a method for detecting minute traces of these              these unseen microbes to degrade toxic contaminants
additives, called oxygenates, in groundwater and sur-                that are present in gasoline spills.                       .
face water. The method could pave the way to deter-                      "Most of the information available on oxygenates 10
mine the extent of their environmental impacts.                                drinking water is limited to ether-based com-
     "There is a great deal of concern over                                    pounds, primarily MTBE. This made it impor-
MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether) in our                                       tant to develop a reliable analytical method for
water supplies, but there has been very little                                   detecting trace levels of ethanol even though it
in the way of funding to study the extent of                                      is much more accepted in potable water,"
the problem and how to clean it up, and                                            Spalding said . How ethanol travels through
measuring for trace levels of ethanol in                                            the environment is largely unknown, due to
groundwater and surface water have been                                              the lack of reliable and accurate analytical
virtually nonexistent," said Roy Spalding,                                            methods to detect it in trace amounts.
Research Hydrochemist and head of                                                         The UNL laboratory has been research-
UNL's Water Sciences Laboratory.                                                       ing ways to reliably detect both ethanol
     Ethanol and MTBE are the primary                                                   and MTBE in quantities of parts per
oxygenates petroleum refiners add to                                                     billion (ppb) or less, which would allow
gasoline to produce higher octane and         Even trace amounts of the clean-air         for assessing background groundwater
cleaner burning fuel. Many of the             ga~oli.ne additive MTBE can make your        levels and higher levels of the oxygen-
nation's largest cities now mandate           drinking water taste and smell bad.          ates in groundwater and surface water
their use to help curb growing prob-                                 at spill sites.
lems with air pollution. MTBE is the most widely used.                   "No one has ever cleaned up a groundwater aquifer
     Gasoline containing MTBE can reduce vehicle car-                contaminated with MTBE. If we find more sensitive
bon monoxide emissions by as much as 20 percent, but                 methods to detect it in trace quantities, there is a higher
if it gets in your drinking water, even trace amounts can            likelihood of stopping a spill or leak and developing
make it taste and smell like creosote or turpentine. It is           techniques to clean up the contamination before it
also a suspected carcinogen.                                         becomes widespread," Spalding said.
     Maine and California already have banned MTBE's                     Solid phase micro-extraction (SPME), an innovative
use and the Ll.S. Environmental Protection Agency is                 method that concentrates the compounds from water on
studying plans to phase down or phase out use nation-                resin coated fibers, is the vehicle for detecting these
ally in the near future. Potential health risks associated                                                    (Continued on page 8)


                                                             INSIDE
    3 ......Festival of Color is Sept. 16                             6 .........Center-Pivot Map

  4-5 .....2000 Summer Water Tour Visits NE/CO                        7      Need to change your address?

              PROTECTING NEBRASKA'S WATER RESOURCES THROUGH RESEARCH AND EDUCATION
New Director, New Directions, New Challenges
                                          my research and teaching responsi-              As I attempt to meet these chal-
                                          bilities there as my academic home.         lenges, it is my earnest goal to help
                                              In my new responsibilities as           identify both emerging needs in the
         rom the                          Director of the Water Center, I want to
                                          say that the transition and settling-in
                                          process are going well. We owe a huge
                                                                                      water sciences and the funds to ad-
                                                                                      dress those needs from both na tionaI
                                                                                      and international sources. Times


        IRECTOR                           debt of gratitude to Ed Vitzthum for
                                          serving as the Water Center's Interim
                                          Director over the past year and a half.
                                          Ed provided a much needed steadying
                                          influence during a difficult period of
                                                                                      have changed and we must change
                                                                                      with them to continue to flourish and
                                                                                      serve the needs of Nebraskans and
                                                                                      beyond.
                                                                                          But we can't meet these goals alone.
                                          transition and continues to be a first      In the coming months I plan to form
                                          class mentor.                               both internal and external advisory
                                              You should also know that Bob           committees, comprised of experts in
                                          Kuzelka has stepped-down from his           various aspects of water, to identify
                                          ll-year post as the Water Center's          new directions, goals and implemen-
                                          Assistant to the Director. This is at       tation strategies. This will require an
                                          Bob's own request in order to give          unprecedented level of collaboration
                                          him more time for his primary loves         and cooperation among NU faculty in
                                          of teaching and working with The            all areas of the water sciences, com-
                                          Groundwater Foundation. He also             mensurate with the myriad needs for
            Kyle D. Hoagland              becomes Director of the UNL Envi-           water, its multiple uses and the prob-
                                          ronmental Studies Program in Janu-          lems that confront us.
     Being the new Director of the        ary, 2001. His energy, zeal and                 We also will introduce innova-
 Water Center, many of you would          knowledge have been legendary.              tions in information transfer to help
 probably like to know a bit about my         Ed and Bob's dedication to the          meet these goals, including changes
background . I came to UNL in 1990        Water Center and it's missions have         in the appearance and content of our
 as a limnologist (one who studies        made a real difference and are sin-         web site and this newsletter. Begin-
 lakes and streams) in the former         cerelyappreciated.                          ning in the next issue of the Water
 Department of Forestry, Fisheries            I feel extremely fortunate to have      Current, you will see changes in
 and Wildlife. This was after seven       the opportunity to serve as Director.       design and content that will include
 years as a faculty member at Texas       Many positive changes have occurred         regular introductions to water-
 Christian University (TCU) in Fort       at UNL in the natural resources arena       related faculty members and their
 Worth. My charge, or appointment,        over the past few years, including for-     research and outreach programs. We
 since then has largely been research     mation of the SNRS. As an integral part     welcome your suggestions and com-
 and teaching in the area of surface      of these changes I can say that these are   ments on these changes.
 water quality, including the ecology     both exciting and challenging times at          A total team effort will be needed
 of a ttached algae in lakes and          the Water Center. Exciting because of       to solve the water quality and quan-
 streams; ecotoxicology of agricultural   the outstanding faculty and staff work-     tity problems we face in this state
 pesticides; reservoir aging; lake res-   ing in water sciences across the entire     and region . It will require the com-
 toration; and the effects of global      University of Nebraska system, and          bined input of biologists, economists,
 warming on aquatic ecosystems.           challenging because of shrinking            geologists, sociologists, hydrologists,
     I was involved in planning and       financial resources that help maintain      chemists, engineers, agricultural pro-
 forming the relatively new NU            and develop the programs that sup-          ducers, consumers and others to
School of Natural Resource Sciences       port water research, teaching and           address the complex issues before us.
(SNRS) and have retained portions of      outreach.                                       Let's get on with it.



                                               Water Current
               Water Center                    Kyle D. Hoagland - Director                This newsletter is published with
      University of Nebraska-Lincoln       Roy F. Spalding - Associate Director,          partial financial supportfrom the
       103 Natural Resources Hall                                                            Department of the Interior;
                                          and Water Sciences Laboratory Director
          Lincoln, NE 68583-0844                                                        U.S. Geological Survey. The content
           Phone: (402) 472-3305            Edward F. Vitzthum - Chemigation            does not necessarily reflect the views
            Fax: (402) 472-3574                        Coordinator                      and policies of the Department of the
          E-mail: sressl@unI.edu             J. Michael Jess - Water Specialist          Interior, nor does mention of trade
                                                                                           names or commercial products
                                                   Steven W. Ress - Editor
       http://ianrwww.unI.edu/ianr/                                                        constituteendorsement by the
          waterctr/wchome.html             Patricia A. Liedle - Editorial Assistant                U.S. Government.

 PAGE   2                                           WATER CURRENT                                              AUGUST      2000
    Lawn and Garden Drought and Climate
    Tolerance Are Focusof Festivalof Color
V
    bysteve Ress                                                      Faculty and staff from the UNL Department of
                                                                  Agronomy and Horticulture will presentthe Fischer
        HeIp nursing parched                                      USA Flower Trials 2000,featuring 78 varietiesof gerani-
    lawns and gardens                                             ums,29 varietiesof impatiensand five varietiesof vinca
    through the drought and                                       (periwinkle).Retailers   will alsooffer a large selectionof
    preparing for next year's                                     plant material,equipmentand other landscaping        mate-
    growing season be can                                         rials for salethroughout the day. Food and beverages,
    found at next month's                                         including water, will be availableall day.
    eighth annualFestivalof                                           An expandedfamily fun centerwill have demonstra-
    Color.                                                        tions on "All the Water In the World," "When It Rains
       The turfgrass and                                          on the Plains" and "Groundwater Resources" the    in
    landscape  display and                                        morning and "Pumpkin Circles,""Soil Matters,"and
    open houseis Saturday,Sept.16 at the University of            "Pollinators"in the afternoon.
    Nebraska's   ]ohn Seaton  AndersonTurfgrassand Orna-              Children'sflower and vegetable    gardenswill have
    mental Research    Area, which is part of NU's Agricul-       Asian and Latin American kitchen gardens,vertical gar-
    tural Research  and DevelopmentCenternear Mead.               densand "Mr. and Mrs. McGregors     Maze" to help entertain.
       Demonstrations,    displaysand how-to sessions   will          Representatives the NebraskaBeekeepers
                                                                                        of                            Associa-
    be from 9 a.m.to 3 p.m., a shift from the 10 a.rn.to 4        tion will alsobe willing to show you how Honeybees
    p.m. hours in past years.                                                                             to
                                                                  are among the most beneficialinsects man through
       The festival'sfocusis on turfgrassmanagement;              their pollination of fruit and vegetable  cropsand pro-
    trees,flowers and shrubs;landscape     management   and       duction of wax and honey.
    maintenance;   and residentiallandscape   designand               Festivalof Color has grown to becomethe single
    maintenance.                                                  largestannualpublic eventwithin NU's Instituteof
       Within eachof theseprimary areasare a variety of           Agriculture and Natural Resources     (IANR).
    half-hour talks, many of which will be given once in the                          the
                                                                      You can access Festivalon the Internetat
    morning and then repeatedin the aftemoon.                     http://hort.unl.edu/fallfest/. Volunteerdonationsof $5
v      A samplingof this year'stopicsincludes:
        . Mowing, fertilizing and other turfgrassmanage-
                                                                  per family or $2 per personare encouraged help
                                                                  defray costs.
                                                                                                                 to

          ment practices reducewater and pesticide
                           to                                         Festivalof Color is supportedby the U,S.Environ-
          applications.                                           mental ProtectionAgency,RegionVII through the
        o Choosingthe right turfgrassfor your site.               NebraskaDepartmentof EnvironmentalQuality;
        r Choosingand caringfor trees,shrubs,wild-                NebraskaNursery and Landscape        Association;
          flowers and native grassmixes.                          NebraskaTurfgrassFoundation;Earl May Seedand
        . Mulch selectionand how they can influence plant         Nursery, Limited Partnership;the Lower Platte North
          health and weed control.                                Natural Resources   District;Campbell'sNursery and
        . Soil amendments     and how to incorporatethem.         GardenCenter;NebraskaStatewideArboretum; NU's
        . Pond design,maintenance      and plant selection.       IANR, Agricultural Research     and DevelopmentCenter,
        . Designingand renovatingwindbreaks.                      Schoolof Natural Resource     Sciences, Water Center,and
        . Attracting wildlife to your landscape.                  Departments Agronomy and Horticulture, Plant
                                                                                 of
        o Identifying and controllingweedsand diseases       in   Pathologyand Entomology.
          your lawn.
       "Tent Talks" featurea questionand answersession
    with NU extensionhorticuiturist Don Steinegger,
    turfgrassspecialist  RochGaussoin,   entomologistFred
    Baxendaleand plant pathologist ]ohn Watkins, who are
    the panel of NebraskaEducationalTelevision's     Back-
    yard Farmer.
       Other demonstrations    include a sustainable land-
    scapemound featuringwater-conserving       plants that
    was renovatedin part with funds from last year'sdonor
    contributions;a model train areaand how to incorpo-
    rate one into your landscape  and a mastergardenertent
    that will be staffedthrough the day to answeryour
J   questions.
                        Summer 2000
                                          Tour
               Water and Natu ral Resources

                                                   "Woter Tronsfersond Morketing
                                                     in Nebrasko ond Colorodo"




Hydrologist Forrest Leaf talks about
water augmentation plans in the
Central Colorado Water Conservancy
District near Greelev.
                                                                                                                            v
                                           Alan Berryman,head of the engineering
                                           servicesbranch of the Northern Colo-
                                           rado Water Conservancy   District,
                                                     the
                                           discusses district's Flatiron Reser-
                                           voir and Carter Lake projectsneat       Water rushesthrough the Western
                                           Loveland.                               Canal near the Nebraska-Colorado
                                                                                   border as tour participantslisten to a
                                                                                   rundown of current water projectsin
                                                                                   the South Platte Natural Resources
                                                                                   District.




Kearney Daily Hub reporter Lori Potter (left) getsa steak at   Lining-up for steakson the Big Thompson River, near
a chuckwagonbarbecueat Viestenz-SmithPark on the Big           Loveland.
Thompson River.                                                                                                             V
Getting a look at commercial sand-and-gravel operations       General Manager Virgil Norton discusses groundwater
near Greeley.                                                 transfers in the Upper Republican NRD near Grant.




Jon Altenhofen of the Northern Colorado Water Conser-         Blowout....thankfully the AIC kept working!!
vancy District explains Colorado's water recharge and
augmentation project at Tamarack Ranch near [ulesberg,




Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District's Tim            Engineer Mike Glade gets into the details
Anderson and Angela Wood of Governor Mike Johann's                     of Coors' water operations and water
office catch-up on politics at Coors Brewing Co. in Golden.            rights at the brewery in Golden.

                                                                       (photos by Steve Ress and Mary Harding)

 AUGUST     2000                                    WATER CURRENT                                             PAGE   5
                                                                                     tion and Licensure, Nebraska Associa-
iiii-&fiiiiiii        Water News Briefs                                              tion of Resource Districts, Nebraska
                                                                                     Game and Parks Commission, UNL
I~                                             We'll be in the NU Institute of
                                                                                     Water Center, Nebraska Department
.~                                         Agriculture and Natural Resources
                                                                                     of Agriculture, League of Nebraska
                                                                                     Municipalities, Nebraska Department
                                           (IANR) building. Just look for the
               ...l                        distinctive Husker Red steel building
                                                                                     of Natural Resources and the U.S.
                                                                                     Geological Survey.
              .,                           with the white roof.
                                                                                          Phase I of the study will assess
                                               Husker Harvest Days is one of the
                                                                                     Nebraska's current water quality moni-
                                           nation's premier agricultural shows. It
                                                                                     toring efforts and results are to be pre-
                                           was first held in 1978and IANR faculty
Re-Cap ofWater Management                  and staff have been involved since year
                                                                                     sented to the Legislature by Dec. 1.
Issues Available Free                                                                     Phase II will use the information
                                           one! About 20 IANR units exhibit          gathered in Phase I and will include a
    Those attending this spring's 29th     during the three-day show. This year's
                                                                                     detailed description of changes
Annual Nebraska Water Conference           event is Tuesday through Thursday,
                                                                                     required in the current monitoring sys-
confirmed what many of us already          Sept. 12-14. See you there!               tem. This will be used to develop a
suspected .....that Nebraskans are                                                   comprehensive, integrated statewide
concerned about preventing and con-        NDEQ Water Quality                        wa ter quality monitoring system. Phase
trolling pollution in the state's public   Monitoring                                II is to be completed by June 30, 200l.
and private water sources. Balloting                                                      Surface water and groundwater
to develop a prioritized list of water         Recent passage of LB1234 requires
                                                                                     questionnaires are part of the process
management issues at the conference        the Nebraska Department of Environ-
                                                                                     and have been sent to both individu-
also confirmed that they are equally       mental Quality (NDEQ) conduct a com-
                                                                                     als and appropriate entities. These
concerned about unifying systems to        prehensive study of water quality
                                                                                     questionnaires must be completed
govern surface water and groundwa-         monitoring in Nebraska. NDEQ is
                                                                                     and returned by Sept. 30. If you have
ter, state funding for water research,     working with an advisory committee        not seen the questionnaires, or have
developing a state water manage-           to develop this study.                    questions about them, contact Steve
ment plan and protecting environ-              The committee consists of repre-      Walker at the NDEQ at (402)471-4227
mentally sensitive water resources.        sentatives of American Consulting
                                                                                     or e-mail deq013@mail.deq.state.
    These were the highest ranked of       Engineers, Nebraska Department of
                                                                                     ne .us.
33 priority water management issues        Health and Human Services Regula-
facing Nebraskans, according to
those attending the March 6-8 confer-
ence at Lincoln's Cornhusker Hotel.         Center-Pivot Map Available
Complete polling results, which were
                                            by Charlie Flowerday,
electronically prepared by the Ne-
braska Public Power District, with          Editor, UNL Conservation and Survey Division
voting breakdowns and percentages,              Center-pivot irrigation systems in   percent, from 348 to 903; Hall: 145
are available free from the UNL Wa-        Nebraska increased 59 percent from        percent, from 240 to 588; Platte: 118
ter Center. Send your request for          1988 to 1997, according to a new Uni-     percent, from 519 to 1,132; and York:
copies to Water Management Issues,         versity of Nebraska-Lincoln report.       100 percent, from 609 to 1,220. Lind-
Water Center, P.O. Box 830844, Uni-             Totals increased from 26,741 in      say Manufacturing of Lindsay con-
versity of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE           1988 to 42,444 in 1997, the last year     tributed partial funding for the 1997
68583-0844, e-mail sress1@unl.edu or       for which data is available from          data, but future inventories will
phone (402)472-3305.                       UNL's Center for Advanced Land            depend on more outside funding,
                                           Management Information Technolo-          explained Mark Kuzila, director of
                                           gies (CALMIT). This is the first          UNL's Conservation and Survey
See You At
                                           CALMIT inventory and map of cen-          Division, with which CALMIT is
Husker Harvest Days                        ter-pivot irrigation systems since        affiliated.
    Stop in and see the Water Center       1990.                                         In addition to CALMIT, the
staff at next month's Husker Harvest            "We got partial funding for the      study was sponsored by two public
Days in Grand Island. We'll be there       map through a cooperative project         power districts and five natural re-
with displays and materials on water       called the Platte River and Basin         sources districts, as well as the state
quality and how to access agencies         Cooperative Hydrology Study, but          Department of Water Resources
and organizations dealing with water       it's only for one year," said Marcus      and its Natural Resources and
issues in Nebraska.                        Tooze, research coordinator with          Game and Parks commissions.
    We'll answer your questions and        CALMIT and principal investigator             The map is available from UNL's
have free gifts for everyone. There        of the part of the study analyzing land   Conservation and Survey Division
will be daily drawings for free NU         use that contributed to the inventory.    for $5 plus $3 shipping and handling
sweatshirts, presentation pens and              Counties with more than 500          for a folded map, or $4 for an
free subscriptions to the Water Cur-       pivots that had the highest percent-      unfolded map in a tube. For more
rent newsletter.                           age increases were: Cuming: 313 per~      information, phone (402)472-7523or
                                           cent, from 128 to 529; Merrick: 159       e-mail csdsales@unl.edu.
 PAGE   6                                           WATER CURRENT                                          AUGUST     2000
                 AUGUST

    28-31: American Wat er Resources
Association Annual Specialt y Conference,
"Riparian Ecology and Management in
Multi-Land Use Watershed," Doubletree
Hotel, Lloyd Center, Portland, OR. For
information, phone (540)687-8390 or e-mail
info@awra .org.       .
    29-31: "Carbon: Exploring the Benefits
to Farmers and Society," Des Moines , IA.
Registrations due Aug. 8. For information,
contact Alice Vinsand at (515)225-1051 or
e-mail avinsand@aol.com

               SEPTEMBER

      2-8: Fourth International Conference on
Integrating Geographic Information Sys-
tems (GIS) and Environmental Modeling,              16-18: WEFTEC 2000, 73rd annual con-                   NOVEMBER
Banff Centre for Conferences, Banff,            ference of the Water Environment Federa-
Alberta, Canada. For information, phone         tion, Anaheim Convention Center, Los               6-9: Annual Water Resources Confer-
(303)497-6330 or e-mail                         Angeles, CA. Phone (703)684-2456 /2480 for    ence presented by the American Water
bparks@colorado.edu .                           information.                                  Works Association, Miami, FL. For infor-
      8-20: Fragmentation 2000 - A Confer-          17-21: Spanning Cultural and Ecological   mation, contact Michael J. Kowalski,
ence on Sustaining Private Forests in the       Diversity Through Environmental Educa-        AWRA director of operations at (540)687-
21st Century, Annapolis, MD. Contact            tion: The 29th Annual Conference of the       8390 or e-mail mike@awra .org.
Terri Bates at (703)538-1134 or e-mail          North American Association for Environ-
                                                                                                   13-15: "Asking the Right Questions:
Bates-Stasny@erois.com.                         mental Education, South Padre Island, TX.     Evaluating the Impact of Groundwater
      10-13: Water in the New Millennium:       Information is on the internet at
                                                                                              Education," The Groundwater Foundation
"The Possible, the Probable and the Prefer -    www.naaee.org .
                                                                                              fall conference and Groundwater Guardian
able, " 2000 RMSAWW A /RMWEA Joint                  26-28: National Carbon Sequestrian        designation, Lied Conference Center,
annual conference, Vail, CO. For informa-       Conference, Missoula, MT. Contact Karen       Nebraska City. For information, e-mail
tion, go to http:/ /www.rmsawwa.org or          Reiter or Ted Dodge at (406)587-6965 or       cindy@groundwater.org or phone (800)858-
e-mail catch@ci.grandjct.co.us.                 e-mail kreiter@mt.nrcs.usda .gov.             4844 or (402)434-2740.
      12-14: Husker Harvest Days, Grand             31-Nov. 4: Combined Conferences of             28-Dec. 1: National Water Resources
Island . 8 a.m . to 5 p .m. each day. See       the American Society of Agronomy, Crop        Association, Annual Conference, San
Nebraska Farmer magazine for details.           Science Society of America and Soil Science   Diego , CA.
      17-22: International Conference on        Society of America, Salt Lake City, UT.
Coastal Zone Management, Saint John,            Information on the internet at www.asa-
New Brunswick, Canada . For information,        cssa-sssa.org/ 0lr99 I .
phone (506)462-5961 or e-mail
czczcc2000@gov.nb.ca.                           ~-------------------------,
      22-24: Environmental Problem Solving
with GIS, Cincinnati, OH . Contact Lisa                                  We're Updating!!
Enderle at (412)741-5462 or e-mail
lisa .e.enderle@cpmx.saic.com.                          We are updating our mailing list. If you have a change of address, title
      24-27: Groundwater Protection Council         and / or name, or would like to have your name added to or removed from
2000 Annual Forum, Ft. Walton Beach, FL.            the Water Current mailing list, please let us know. Also, if you know of
Contact GWPC at (405)516-4977 or                    anyone who might be interested in receiving our publications, please give
http: / /gwpc.site.net/meetings.htm .
      27-29: Alliance for Environmental Con-
                                                    us their names and we will be glad to add them to our mailing list.
servation: A Comprehensive Approach (to
Nutrient Management), St. Louis , MO .
                                                    Change my address 0       Delete me from your list 0 Add to your list 0
Contact Wanda Linker at (334)265-2732 or            Name:                                                                        _
e-mail wanda@apea.the-link.net.
                                                    Address:                                                                    _
                OCTOBER

     8-11: The Natural Rural Water Associa-         City , State, Zip:                                    ~                         _
tion Management and Technical Confer-
ence, Kansas City, MO . For further                 Send update to:
information, contact The National Rural
Water Association at (580)251-9081 or                   Water Center, University of Nebraska, 103 Natural Resources Hall,
e-mail mail@nrwa.org.                                               P.O. Box 830844, Lincoln, NE 68583-0844
    12-15: National Small Farm Conference,                                     FAX (402)472-3574
St. Louis, MO . Contact Cyremple Marsh at       L                     or e-mail changes to sressl@unl.edu                               ~
(573)682-5550.

 AUGUST      2000                                            WATER CURRENT                                                 .P A G E     7
New Method For Detecting Trace Amounts of MTBE                                                             (continued from page I)

trace quantities . Separations Chemist Dave Cassada,                                "Th is is the first major doctoral dissertation on the
Laboratory Manager Dan Snow and Graduate Student                                trace occurrence, fate, and transport of ethanol in sur-
Yi Zhang add simple salt to the SPME method to                                  face and groundwater sources," Spalding said.
increase the detectability of both MTBE and ethanol.                                Both oxygenates can enter groundwater and surface
    The method enables the UNL laboratory to accu-                              water from several sources, Spalding explained .
rately detect and quantify ethanol at the low ppb level                             Investigating the presence of ethanol in groundwater
and MTBE and similar ether-based oxygenates at the                              near leaking underground storage tanks (known to
low ppt (parts per trillion) level , Cassada explained.                         researchers as LUSTs) is an important aspect of the study.
    Though a number of factors that can improve the                             Non-radioactive tagged compounds will be injected in the
method's accuracy and efficiency remain to be investi-                          LUSTs to make it possible for researchers to track ethanol.
gated, the California Partnership for MTBE is so confi -                            "These compounds will be intercepted in special
dent in the UNL-developed method that the y published                           groundwater samplers and the data will be used in the
it several months ago. It also was recently accepted for                        assessment of the fate of many of the previously
publication in The Journal of A nalytical Chemistry .                           observed oxygenates and gasoline additives. The data
    The method forms the basis of application s that                            will then be modeled and used in de termining the trans-
could become a very ambitious multi-year assessment                             port of these compounds in sand and grav el ground-
of the occurrence of ethanol and MTBE in ground w ater                          water aquifers," said Research H ydrologist Xun-Hong
and surface water, as well as the fate and transport of                         Chen, who is involved in this portion of the study.
other contaminants present in gasoline that may be                                  Before California fully accepts substituting ethanol
effected by ethanol.                                                            for MTBE, research results from this study ar e necessary
    "Leaking underground storage tanks and spills from                          to evaluate the fate of toxic gasoline compounds such as
normal refueling opera tions and leak y vehicles are                            benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene and xylene in gasoho l
probably the most common sources (of contamination),"                           leaks from LUSTs.
Spalding said, though atmospheric deposits, urban run-                              "Now that we have a reliable means to detect these
off and powered watercraft also pla ya role inintroduc-                         contaminant compounds in trace quantities, this
ing them to water supplies.                                                     research holds the promise that the gasoline additives
    In determ ining the extent of this on the Interstate 80                     we count on to help keep our air clean will no longer
corridor in Nebraska and Colorado, Zhang's research                             pose an unsolvable risk to the water we drink since we
focuses on sampling shallow groundwater aquifers for                            will be able to locate the contamination and clean it up ,"
ethanol, MTBE and oth er oxygenates. He will investi-                           Spalding said.
gate how vehicle emissions impact shallow ground-                                   The research is being sponsored by NU's Agricul-
water quality along 1-80between Grand Island and                                tural Research Division, Institute of Agriculture and
Denver and study the natural levels of these oxygenates                         Natural Resources and Water Center. Additional coop-
in isolated rural areas. The rural control sites are near                       eration and potential support is coming from The
Shelton and Central City, locations where UNL                                   National Water Research Institute, American Petroleum
researchers have ongoing agricultural and                                       Association, The Association of California Water Agen-
environmental research projects.                                                cies, Oxygenated Fuels Association, West ern States
    A portion of this project is Zhang's doctoral degree                        Petroleum Association, Williams Energ y Co., Cargill,
research.                                                                       Chief Ethanol Fuels and AGP.



WATER C EN TER/ENVIRONMENTAL PROGRAMS                                                                                                Non Profit
103 N at ur al Resources Hall                                                                                                       U.S. Postage
University of N ebraska                                                                                                               PAID
P.O. Box 830844                                                                                                                     Permit 46
Lincoln, NE 68583-0844                                                                                                              Lincoln NE

ADD RESS SERV IC E REQUESTED


 ~    Print ed with soy ink on
~d 15% post-consumer recycled paper




                     11 is the policy of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln not to discriminate basedongender, age, disability,
                         race, color, religion, marital status, veteran's status, national orethnicorigin, or sexual orientation.