After 11 weeks in court, a federal jury has found ExxonMobil liable for polluting six public drinking wells in southeastern Queens.
ExxonMobil will pay New York City $105 million for poisoning the city’s groundwater with methyl teriary butyle ether (MTBE), a Manhattan judge ruled today. MTBE was found in six emergency reserve drinking wells in the Jamaica section of Queens, the city’s second most populous borough.
MTBE, which increases oxygen content in fuel, causing it to burn slower, is banned in 20 states. It has been outlawed in New York since 2004. The city sued Exxon for knowingly contaminating the public water source with MTBE, which is cheaper to use than the safer, suggested ethanol alternative.
The health risks of MTBE, especially from long-term exposure, have yet to be determined. It has been on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Contaminate Candidate list since 1996. Since then, the EPA has launched and proposed 40 risk assessment projects.
While contamination did not reach the city’s active water supply, Exxon failed to warn people about the dangers of its product, according to the court’s ruling.
“Now the financial burden of cleaning up contamination to the groundwater system caused by ExxonMobil will rightly fall to the polluters,” Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Steven Lawitts told New York Daily News.
With the construction of a water treatment plant, Station 6, the wells should be available for use in 15 to 20 years.
Read more about the case from the Courthouse News Service.