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ExxonMobil Must Pay $105 M to Clean Queens Groundwater, Court Rules Again

 ExxonMobil was found liable for contaminating Queens groundwater.
ExxonMobil was found liable for contaminating Queens groundwater.
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QUEENS — A federal appeals court upheld a 2009 ruling that ordered ExxonMobil to pay $105 million for the cleanup of groundwater in Queens that the court found the company to have polluted, the city announced Friday. ExxonMobil said it would appeal the decision to the United States Supreme Court.

The decision by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that the company was liable for contaminating groundwater with the gasoline additive methyl tertiary butyl ether, commonly referred to as “MTBE.” The substance leaves an unpleasant taste and odor in water.

“This decision upholds the jury’s earlier finding that ExxonMobil, and not New Yorkers who pay water bills, will be held responsible for the cost of the cleanup,” said Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Carter Strickland, in a statement. 

The city sued ExxonMobil in 2003 for the costs of removing MTBE from drinking water wells in southeast Queens. 

The city's drinking water supply system includes 68 groundwater wells in southeast Queens, which serve as a back-up supply to the upstate water system.

MTBE was banned in New York State in 2004, after the authorities realized it had polluted groundwater drinking water supplies throughout the state.

The city said that ExxonMobil added MTBE to its gasoline despite the company’s knowledge that existing gasoline storage systems would leak, spilling MTBE into the groundwater. 

Todd Spitler, a spokeman for ExxonMobil, said in a statement that “MTBE was added to gasoline to meet regulatory requirements to solve U.S. air pollution."

"MTBE has not been used for seven years, clean-up successfully continues and the myriad of data shows MTBE detections decreasing," Spitler said.