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The Occurrence and Persistence of MTBE in Groundwater in Windham, Maine, USA

Peckenham, John M.
Ground water monitoring & remediation 2010 v.30 no.2 pp. 53-62
groundwater contamination, aquifers, land use, wells, pollutants, Maine
A study was conducted from July 1998 through November 2007 on the occurrence and distribution of the fuel oxygenate methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) in a large sand and gravel aquifer located in southern Maine. MTBE was detected in 44% of 129 water samples collected from monitoring wells in concentrations up to 38.7 μg/L (reporting limit = 0.1 μg/L). The number of wells with detectable quantities of MTBE declined slightly between 1999 and 2007, but in general MTBE persisted throughout the period of study. Overall, MTBE was detected more frequently in the shallow and more transmissive parts of the aquifer. There was a statistically significant difference (p < 0.001) for MTBE concentrations relative to nearby land uses. MTBE was detected in 83% of the samples collected from wells in low-density residential areas, in 50% of samples from urban areas, and in 60% of samples from undeveloped areas. The concentrations of MTBE in the test wells were compared across the sample dates for trends and seven wells had a positive trend (Mann-Kendall statistic), but none was significant at p < 0.05. Nine wells had a negative trend, but only one was significant at p < 0.05. Three wells had no trend. The absence of strong or even consistent trends indicates that MTBE persists in shallow groundwater, even after gasoline formulations were changed to reduce or eliminate MTBE.