In Southern California, Southland water officials have developed an action plan to prevent further pollution of the region's water supplies by the chemical MTBE. The suspected carcinogen has fouled nearly two dozen wells in Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego and Riverside Counties. The community of Santa Monica has been forced to shut down seven of its 11 wells due to MTBE pollution, and is in litigation with oil companies to get the polluters to pay for the water contamination. In addition to being listed as a suspected carcinogen by the EPA, MTBE's turpentine-like taste and odor can be detected in drinking water supplies at extremely low levels, say officials.

The plan California officials are calling for includes: congressional passage of an oxygenate waiver amendment; legislation that forces polluters to expedite MTBE cleanup; requiring nonpolluting boat and watercraft engines on drinking water reservoirs; selling only MTBE-free gasoline for boats and watercraft at reservoir marinas and other at-risk areas; launching a public information campaign to encourage proper disposal of gasoline; implementing an engine-labeling system for new, nonpolluting marine motors; speeding disbursement of $20 million in state emergency funds to water utilities with MTBE contamination; and accelerating work of the state Department of Health Services committee conducting research into MTBE treatment technology.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee recently voted against granting California and other states a waiver from the federal requirement of oxygenates in gasoline.