Narrator:This is Science Today. In an effort to raise awareness of groundwater contamination, environmental engineers at the University of California, Berkeley, have published a report warning against the use of oxygenates as gasoline additives. Dr. Tad Patzek, lead author of the study, explains.
Patzek: Underground gasoline tanks in gas stations inevitably leak. In fact, since 1990 there have been about 400,000 tank leaks in the country. And of course, only a fraction of these tank leaks is ever detected, so the real number is much larger.
Narrator: Patzek says that when gasoline leaks, additives like ethanol leak as well, increasing the threat to public health.
Patzek: When gasoline contains ethanol, the soil bacteria would preferentially eat the ethanol, while other gasoline components, which would be eaten otherwise by the bacteria, propagate. So the presence of ethanol causes the gasoline plume to propagate farther away from the point of leak.
Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.