Action News Jax Investigates: Tainted gas sold to Jacksonville-area drivers

Action News Jax Investigates: Tainted gas sold to Jacksonville area drivers

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Florida inspectors found water, sediment and more in samples taken from several local gas stations.

It’s a problem across our area. Cheryl Cochran got a tank of bad gas from a Georgia gas station.

“I was very upset. I've never had any issues with this truck and bad gas made it to where it really could have messed my truck up,” Cochran said.

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The Shell station paid for the repair, but another station did not for another driver.

“It was 90 percent water,” Anna Popenko said of the bad gas.

Popenko said she spent $618 to fix her 2016 Corolla.


List of cited gas stations
List of cited gas stations

“You don't think you're going to get something else in the gas tank but the gas,” she said.

A closet full of tainted samples prove otherwise.

“About half of the failures turn out to be water,” said Rich Lewis, of the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

Georgia gas stations get inspected every 18 months.

In Florida, a station is inspected based on a number of risk factors, such as past complaints and violation history and consumer complaints in both Florida and Georgia trigger an immediate inspection.

We dug through Florida inspection and citation records for the last two years and found nearly 300 stations were caught with high levels of water in the fuel they were selling.

In our area, 13 stations were cited, some multiple times.

There are many ways water can get into the underground tanks.

“If it rains a lot, there's water standing in parking lots, things like that, it can seep into underground tanks if the caps are not secure,” Lewis said.

That's especially true after major storms, such as Hurricane Irma. A few days after the storm, inspectors found water in the gasoline at a BP station on Blanding Boulevard in Orange Park.

Records show the owner took swift action to correct the problem and paid to repair one customer's car. Because of that, the station's fine was reduced to $100.

Stations that don't comply, or are repeat offenders, face a fine of $5,000 per incident.

No matter where you fill up, state officials say to always keep your receipt. Never push the "No" button. That piece of paper is key evidence if you get a bad tank of gas.

“The quicker that we know about the problem, the more likely it is that we'll find the problem and address it,” Lewis said.

Experts also say the larger, busier gas stations are more likely to replenish their underground fuel tanks more often, which can decrease the chance of water getting into your tank.

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