Some of the nation’s largest oil companies will over the next 30 years have to pay to clean up groundwater befouled with gasoline additive MTBE. In settling a suit brought by 153 public water providers in 17 states, a dozen companies — including BP, Shell, ConocoPhillips, and Chevron — will also have to pay a total $423 million cash. If approved, the settlement will be “a step in the direction of making the parties responsible for the contamination pay for it rather than the folks who drink the water and pay the rates,” says an attorney for the plaintiffs. Well, most of the responsible parties anyway — six defendants, including Exxon Mobil, did not agree to settle. MTBE, which began to be added to gasoline in 1979 to increase octane levels, is a possible carcinogen and can give water the taste and odor of turpentine. It is now banned in 23 states, and oil companies stopped using it in 2006. Estimates of the cleanup cost have reached $30 billion.