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Navy Reverses Course, Will Try to Stop Spread of MTBE

August 12, 2000

PORT HUENEME — The Navy has changed course and is proceeding with plans to halt a runaway underground contaminant slick that is spreading beneath its military base here and is headed for a major shipping port.

Under pressure from California regulators, the military is close to completing plans to arrest the spread of MTBE, a fuel additive that has polluted a vast portion of the water table at the Naval Construction Battalion Center. The Navy is scheduled to submit its plan by September.

"They are committed to addressing the issue that needs to be addressed--that is containment and control of the plume," said Peter Raftery, associate engineering geologist with the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board.

The response marks a reversal of the Navy's position. Early in the year, the Navy was content to let the mess spread because, base officials maintained, it served as a site for various experiments to control MTBE. Further, Navy officials said MTBE pollution at the base posed no risk to people or the environment and it couldn't afford the cost of stopping its spread.

That stance drew rebukes from some community leaders and environmentalists.

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