New York City attorneys began Queens groundwater contamination case against Exxon Mobil in Manhattan federal court last Tuesday. New York City lawyers allege big oil company polluted Jamaica, Queens water with toxic M.T.B.E. Chemical.

New York City government lawyers begin Jamaica, Queens groundwater contamination trial in Manhattan federal court against Exxon Mobil.

New York, NY–The trial between New York City government attorneys and defendant Exxon Mobil began in United States District Court in Manhattan, on Tuesday, August 4, 2009. The Manhattan federal jury will determine, based on evidence presented by New York government lawyers, if Exxon Mobil, the world’s largest publicly traded American oil and gas company by revenue, based in Irving, Texas, knew their gasoline additive was contaminating Queens groundwater. Judge Shira A. Scheindlin began hearing one of hundreds of cases across the country filed against big oil companies about M.T.B.E. groundwater contamination, a chemical compound additive that replaced lead as an octane enhancer in gasoline, as reported by the New York Times.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) http://www.epa.gov M.T.B.E. is considered a carcinogen in high doses in animals. Low levels of the gasoline additive, used to prevent engine knocking and boost engine performance, causes a bad taste and odor in water making it undrinkable. The chemical compound is highly soluble in water, and New York City officials claim storage tank fuel leaks have caused the contamination of groundwater used for local resident drinking in many areas. New York and twenty-five other states have restricted or banned M.T.B.E. The big six oil company, Exxon Mobil, is accused of purposefully ignoring evidence, provided by their own scientists, allerting company leaders of the high risk for groundwater contamination. The alternative solution to M.B.T.E. use would be to use ethanol as an octane enhancer, which is considerably more expensive. According to federal court documents, of the 68 wells in Queens, 39 show M.T.B.E. groundwater contamination, and a $250 million dollar water treatment facility needs to be built to resolve five of the contaminated wells so the water would be drinkable by New Yorkers. The five wells, which are the city’s focus in the environmental violations lawsuit, can produce close to 10 million gallons a day, if the New York City’s drinking water system, provided by an upstate reservoir, were to fail. Exxon Mobil attorneys claim the wells were contaminated by other industries in the New York area.

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