LIZTON, Ind. — A fuel mix-up at a local gas station could leave drivers with thousands of dollars worth of repairs.
Shortly after a delivery of fuel was made at the Sonoco Gas Station in Lizton, Keith Gurley said he started to receive reports of tainted gas.
Gurley is the general manager of the town’s one and only gas station. He said a delivery of fuel was made on Wednesday around noon. By Thursday, his phones were ringing off the hook.
“We received a call from someone saying they had a fuel issue,” said Gurley. “I asked them what kind of fuel they purchased. They purchased ‘plus’ fuel. I told them I hadn’t had any other calls but we would watch for it… couple hours later we got another phone call from someone who got premium fuel and had an issue.”
Gurley explained that “plus” fuel is a blend of unleaded fuel and premium fuel, so if premium tanks were contaminated, then plus fuel would be too. He said customers claimed to have a variety of mechanical issues — from stalled cars to heavy smoke coming from the exhaust.
“Once a second call had come in – at that time we shut off the premium and plus tanks until we could get figured out what happened,” said Gurley.
Gurley said he sifted through invoices from the gas company who delivered the fuel and found that approximately 500 gallons of diesel had been added to the premium tankers by mistake.
“We were supposed to get X amount of gallons of diesel delivered and X amount of gallons of unleaded. Well by doing the math before and after, we knew we got the correct amount of unleaded but we were short the amount of diesel fuel we were supposed to get,” said Gurley. “Pulling a tank reading off the back – I found that I got more premium than I should have and that’s what led us to go, ‘Oh okay, they dumped diesel fuel into the wrong tank.'”
Gurley said the gas company is taking responsibility for adding approximately 500 gallons of diesel into the premium tank.
“I’m upset that it happened, but it did happen,” said Gurley. “All I could do is go forward and try to help the people that were affected by it.”
Gurley said the fuel mix-up would only impact drivers who filled up on premium or plus fuel in the two-hour window before those pumps were shut down.
“I just took all of those transactions and we pulled every invoice that had plus or premium,” said Gurley. “Out of that we had nine tickets of people who had purchased that fuel from the time we got the delivery of the fuel to the time we shut the pumps off.”
By Thursday evening, Gurley said he had connected with eight of the nine impacted drivers. According to him, their names and phone numbers will be passed along to the gas company who will then file a claim with its insurance.
“I’m certainly going to turn in every name no matter what kind of purchase they made,” said Gurley. “That’s my job to do and [insurance] will have to sort that out.”
Gurley insisted that those who filled up on diesel or unleaded should not be impacted by the mix-up, but he encourages anyone to keep receipts on hand.
“It could cost anywhere from $8 to $25 a gallon to dispose of [diesel],” said Mike Myers, owner of a nearby auto shop called Myers Garage. “If it’s caught early enough, most of the time it’s not going to cause any long term damage. There could be some residual damage on the catalytic converter if it drove long enough.”
Myers said drivers who simply “topped off” with diesel may not even realize they have a problem – and that would make things worse.
“If you have enough gasoline in there, and it can still ignite it with a spark plug, it’s going to run for quite some time and you’re just going to have a lot of smoke,” said Myers. “That’s the opportunity, though, to have catalyst damage or catalytic converter damage.”
Myers said for some vehicles it could cost as much as $3,000 to repair a catalytic converter.
“Things happen. It was completely out of our control. We’re doing our best to fix it and that’s all I can say,” said Gurley.