Our original bill called for an outright ban of MTBE and then later, through the legislative process, 521 was watered down to a study, but a good study on MTBE. But even at the time that that went through we were saying that we believed, because of the public outcry and the poisoning of our water here in California, that MTBE would, in fact, be phased out prior to the completion of that study.
I think both Senator Hayden and I have been involved in this issue to the extent that we pretty much knew what was coming down, regardless of what the political factors were here in the State Capitol.
This water I have here is out of some wells in the City of Glenville. This well is contaminated to the levels of 200,000 parts per billion. Most of the wells in that city have been contaminated to the levels of 20,000 parts per billion, hardly something -- I wouldn't -- well, you can smell it if you choose to, but not for too long.
It has almost destroyed property values, and you have to remember that this little city is uphill from Bakersfield. Getting into the deep water aquifers and flowing downstream into Bakersfield could be very, very dangerous.
We have found that MTBE is in Lake Tahoe. There are lakes -- and a lot of this, you know, is laid off on the boats. Well, we have the boats on the lakes and they're spewing fuel into the lakes. But you need to know that Lake Merced, in the Bay Area, is contaminated with MTBE and only has on it either boats that are rowed by hand or electric motors, so MTBE also gets in. I think you'll hear a little more about that from the geological survey folks and some of the other expert witnesses that you're going to have here today. MTBE is a threat.
In the San Gabriel Valley we have spent considerable money and time over the last 20 years cleaning up our wells from other contaminates in that valley, and now they have the threat of MTBE invading that valley, a chemical that once in the water is soluble in the water and, therefore, flows through filters, no really good way to clean MTBE out of the water.
Metropolitan Water told me that if they were to clean up MTBE -- and they feel that they have to get it out of the water at the level of 5 parts per billion, and I know EPA is now saying 30 to 40 parts are safe, I believe zero is really safe.
You taste MTBE at around 5 parts per billion. Metropolitan Water feels that they cannot sell water that you can taste, therefore, to clean MTBE out of the water their estimates are triple the water rates for the people of the Los Angeles area if they were to have to clean MTBE out of the water to the level of which you could not taste it. And, so, it's a very, very large threat to our water supply system in Southern California and across this State, and across the Nation. We now know that it's in Texas. We've heard that high levels in, of course, Pennsylvania, and you've mentioned most all of those areas. So it is a national threat to our Nation's water supply, which is very precious.
There is also the point that many of the people involved in the oil industry have said it isn't doing that much for the air, that the benefits to the air quality are very, very minute compared to the threat of the contamination of the water supply. For that reason alone I believe that the EPA should be urged to take immediate steps to either, number one, ban would be my, of course, first choice, or to at least relieve California of the necessity, or relieve the Nation of the necessity, of oxygenating fuel at all, and try to clean it up either with another oxygenate of their choice or clean it up without any oxygenate at all, to get to the levels that are necessary.
Many of them believe they can achieve that goal, and I think they ought to be allowed to turn their experts loose to try to. Once in the water and once in the ground -- you mentioned the fact, which is true -- very, very, long biodegradation of MTBE. Benzene, generally speaking, 400 feet from a tank, is going to biodegrade. MTBE, not so. It will travel through the water aquifers just as it if were water.
The fact of life is that in Glenville the contamination was caused by leaking tanks and spillage of -- while filling the tanks, new tanks, by the way. So we know that MTBE -- it's not a question, are the tanks going to leak, it's -- the question is when they're going to leak and how much are they going to leak.
We saw a pipeline over Donner Pass in which started a leak, they estimated sometime in October. It was not even detected until March, a pipeline that had some 900 pounds of pressure in it. So we don't know the extent of the leakage in the Donner Pass area of that pipeline. So pumping MTBE through those lines is a very, very dangerous situation, and one that we believe needs to be -- steps taken immediately.
I'm pleased to see companies like Tosco and Chevron are now willing to step forward and say we ought to have some alternative to MTBE because it is dangerous to our water supply.
Now, we all want clean air, and I believe we need to say on the course of attaining as clean an air as we can attain, however, at the same time we cannot afford to contaminate our precious water supply here in the State of California.
As you mentioned before, every drop of water in California is very, very precious to us and we need to do everything we can to protect our supply.
So just let me end by saying thank you so much for the hearing. I hope that our message is heard by the Congress of the United States and by the EPA, and that immediate steps are taken to stop the health risk that is going on.
Senator Hayden mentioned that there is a study ongoing, but the study involves 32 million Californians as guinea pigs, and that's something I don't believe we can afford.
So thank you again for the hearings and my chance to participate. I do have some documents from different water companies that are not going to be able to participate today, but I would like to submit these documents to you for entrance into the official record, and they are the positions of several water companies in the State of California.