New Tactic Planned to Fight Toxic Plume

Hoping to slow a 15-year-old underground fuel-additive spill that continues to spread up to a foot a day, officials at Port Hueneme's Naval Construction Battalion Center will begin using the latest in toxic cleanup chemicals Friday.

The technology, developed by Equilon Enterprises, mixes a combination of cultured microorganisms and oxygen that form a bio barrier. Over time, Navy officials hope the chemicals will break down a mile-long synthetic gasoline slick under the naval base.

"This cleanup technology will have significant impact on the plume," said Linda Wadley, a spokeswoman for the base. "The demonstration has been done on a smaller scale and has proven very effective."

The plume-shaped slick, which is confined to the base, currently does not affect any drinking water sources and is not hazardous to the public or the environment, officials said. The slick resulted from an 11,000-gallon gasoline leak at the base in 1985.

The synthetic fuel additive has been used in gasoline to improve air quality since the 1970s and has been used extensively since 1992 to meet stricter gasoline requirements. A 1998 study recommended a phaseout of the additive known as MTBE in gasoline.

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