xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement

Aberdeen officials seek greater flexibility in using money from MTBE settlement

Aberdeen officials have a new plan for spending the money the city received in class action suit settlement over MTBE contamination of the city's wellfield. Vapors from the toxic gasoline additive are believed to have come from a tank at the 7-Eleven on Philadelphia Boulevard.
Aberdeen officials have a new plan for spending the money the city received in class action suit settlement over MTBE contamination of the city's wellfield. Vapors from the toxic gasoline additive are believed to have come from a tank at the 7-Eleven on Philadelphia Boulevard.(MATT BUTTON | RECORD STAFF, Baltimore Sun Media Group)

City of Aberdeen leaders are expected to review during the coming weeks an amendment to the law that governs how they can spend money from the settlement received in 2011 after the municipal wellfield was contaminated with a gasoline additive.

The amended ordinance was introduced to Mayor Mike Bennett and City Council members Bruce Garner and Ruth Ann Young during a council work session Monday. Council members Sandra Landbeck and Ruth Elliott were absent.

Advertisement

City officials set up a revolving loan fund, with council approval, in 2012, so the city could make loans to itself from the $2.5 million settlement from manufacturers of methyl tertiary-butyl ether, or MTBE, to fund capital projects to improve its water system.

The revolving fund would be replenished as the city paid back the borrowed money.

The amended ordinance, which City Manager Doug Miller expects will be provided to the council for a vote in September, gives city officials the additional option of appropriating money from the settlement.

The appropriations would have to be approved by the city council.

"We're going to use it for capital projects but instead of loaning it to ourselves, we'll have the ability to just appropriate it," Miller explained.

The city received a $3.9 million settlement in 2011, the result of Aberdeen's participation in a national class-action lawsuit against refiners of MTBE after the city's wellfield off Route 7, a major source of drinking water for city residents, was contaminated in 2004.

The city spent about $3 million on cleanup efforts, and Aberdeen officials joined the class action suit to recover those costs.

Aberdeen had $2.57 million left in settlement money after the city's legal expenses were paid.

Advertisement

City officials suspected the contamination was the result of a crushed vent pipe designed to release MTBE vapors into the air from an underground storage tank at a 7-Eleven gas station off Route 40, Miller said.

The crushed pipe could instead have forced the vapors into the groundwater aquifer from which the wells drew their water.

"We can never say with a 100 percent certainty that they were the sole source, but we're fairly certain," the city manager explained.

MTBE is used to enhance how gasoline performs in a vehicle's engine and reduces the hazardous emissions caused by burning gas in the engine, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Maryland and a number of other states have banned the use of MTBE in gasoline after high-profile spills. Fallston residents have also had to deal with MTBE contamination in their wells.

Miller said the city has not yet made a loan to itself for water capital projects. He said the appropriation option gives Aberdeen more flexibility for allocating money to those projects.

Advertisement

"In these difficult financial times we need all the flexibility we can get," he said.

Miller said city officials are seeking funds to re coat the interior and exterior of the Hillcrest water tower.

He noted the revolving loan fund is still a good option for water system projects.

"There will always be needs in the water fund," he said. "If you do a revolving loan you always have a source of money."

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement