Odour and flavour thresholds of gasoline additives (MTBE, ETBE and TAME) and their occurrence in Dutch drinking water collection areas.

PMID 19477481


The use of ETBE (ethyl-tert-butylether) as gasoline additive has recently grown rapidly. Contamination of aquatic systems is well documented for MTBE (methyl-tert-butylether), but less for other gasoline additives. Due to their mobility they may easily reach drinking water collection areas. Odour and flavour thresholds of MTBE are known to be low, but for ETBE and TAME (methyl-tert-amylether) hardly information is available. The objective here is to determine these thresholds for MTBE, ETBE and TAME, and relate these to concentrations monitored in thousands of samples from Dutch drinking water collection areas. For ETBE odour and flavour thresholds are low with 1-2microgL(-1), for MTBE and TAME they range from 7 to 16microg L(-1). In most groundwater collection areas MTBE concentrations are below 0.1microg L(-1). In phreatic groundwaters in sandy soils not covered by a protective soil layer, occasionally MTBE occurs at higher concentrations. For surface water collection areas a minority of the locations is free of MTBE. For river bank and dune infiltrates, at a few locations the odour and flavour threshold is exceeded. For ETBE fewer monitoring data are available. ETBE was found in 2 out of 37 groundwater collection areas, in concentrations below 1microgL(-1). In the surface water collection areas monitored ETBE was found in concentrations near to the odour and flavour thresholds. The low odour and flavour thresholds combined with the high mobility and persistence of these compounds, their high production volumes and their increased use may yield problems with future production of drinking water.