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C. The Irony Of MTBE Contamination

Narrator: This is Science Today. For two decades, MTBE has been added to gasoline to boost octane levels and in some cities, reduce carbon monoxide emissions. With the rise of MTBE use, there's also been an increase in groundwater contamination. Marc Deshusses, a chemical and environmental engineer at the University of California, Riverside, works on MTBE bioremediation.

Deshusses: It's a little bit of an irony that MTBE is apparently doing a lot of good things for the air because the air is cleaner, but on the other hand, MTBE is creating some problems for water supplies and groundwater.

Narrator: In the lab, Deshusses got microbes to break down the chemical faster by adding a peat extract.

Deshusses: Now the implication of that could be tremendous because I personally think that microbes degrading MTBE are relatively ubiquitous in the environment. If you can pump down some of this peat extract and if it will stimulate the microbe underground, there's a chance that you can have MTBE disappear faster.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.