American Society of Civil Engineers

Carbon Adsorption and Air-Stripping Removal of MTBE from River Water

by Michael J. Wilhelm, A.M.ASCE, (Staff Engr., Lumos & Assocs., Inc., 5401 Longley Ln., Ste. 5, Reno, NV 89511), V. Dean Adams, (Prof., Dept. of Civ. Engrg. MS 258, Univ. of Nevada, Reno, NV 89557), Jeffry G. Curtis, (Design Engr., EcoLogic, 6490 South McCarran Blvd., Ste. 1, Reno, NV 89509), and E. Joe Middlebrooks, M.ASCE, (Retired, 360 Blackhawk Ln., Lafayette, CO 80026)

Journal of Environmental Engineering, Vol. 128, No. 9, September 2002, pp. 813-823, (doi:

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Document type: Journal Paper
Abstract: Through 1998, methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE) was the most commonly used fuel oxygenate in Reon, Nevada. Winter-use of oxygenated gasolines is required in areas of the country that exceed carbon monoxide air quality standards. MTBE has not been detected in Reno’s raw water sources, but treatment alternatives must be assessed to fully prepare for possible contamination events. In this research, bench-scale studies using activated carbon and air stripping were conducted to evaluate the treatability of a high concentration of MTBE in Truckee River water, which is the primary surface supply for the Reno area. Results indicated that neither method appears practical for treating MTBE-laden water for one day at a 1.14×108 L/day (30 MGD) treatment plant. The capital costs estimated for full-scale application of these processes are approximately $5 million each. Estimated treatment costs for activated carbon and air stripping are approximately $0.043/L ($0.161/gal) and $0.047/L ($0.177/gal), respectively. Temporary closure of treatment facilities may be the best response to an accidental spill.

ASCE Subject Headings:
Abatement and removal
Activated carbon
Rivers and streams
Water treatment