Contact 5 investigators discover bad gasoline; State of Florida takes action

They took samples at South Florida gas stations

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - You can't see what you're putting in your gas tank.  You have to trust that you're getting what you're paying for when filing up.

But the Contact 5 Investigators spoke with a handful of mechanics who said they're fixing a lot of cars that had a bad batch of gasoline.  Drivers like Kerry Warwick.

"The whole car started vibrating," said Warwick.  "It would chug for just a second and then stop and then chug again and vibrate and vibrate and vibrate," she said.  She spent more than $1,000 to get her car towed and her tank emptied.

The Contact 5 Investigators wanted to know who's protecting you at the pump.

What they found surprised customers and caused the State of Florida to take action.

"It's a safety issue for the public," said gasoline inspector Danny Marcum.

It's the Bureau of Weights and Measures job with the Department of Agriculture to inspect gas stations.  The inspectors check to make sure the station's safe, the pumps are working, and that you're getting good gasoline.

Inspectors take samples of gas and send them to a lab in Fort Lauderdale for testing.

The Contact 5 Investigators got access to the facility where you'll find a lot of high tech gadgets inside.  However, state workers check gas the old fashioned way.  They let the sample sit in a glass container for 24 hours to see if sediment, water or debris falls to the bottom.

"If we have that in our gasoline it can clog filters, it can clog injectors and possibly get into the engine and cause other problems," said Gene Campbell from the state's Petroleum Testing Lab.

The Contact 5 Investigators discovered pumps at 14 stations in our area were shut down just last year due to bad gas samples.

Plus, another 14 have not been inspected in more than a year.  And get this, there's no state law requiring them to be.

So the Contact 5 Investigators took their own samples at ten stations from Ft. Pierce to Lake Worth.

After letting the samples sit overnight, they discovered there was sediment on the bottom of not just one but two of their samples.

The Contact 5 Investigators then contacted State Inspectors who took their own samples and shut down the pumps at both stations.  The Sunoco on South Military in Lake Worth and at the Texaco on Okeechobee in West Palm Beach.

State records show this isn't the first time the state shut down the pumps at the Texaco in question, but the second time in less than a year.

"But that was rectified," said longtime gas station employee Roger Khan. He went on to say "They put in some special filters and stuff."

The Contact 5 Investigators also discovered it isn't the first time inspectors shut down the pumps at the Sunoco either. It's the second time since October.

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Click the links below to view state inspection results for gas stations in your county:

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Contact 5 Investigator Dan Krauth left a message for the station's owner.  The owner never called, but his spokesperson did, stating the station had a new tank put in less than one year ago and if there was sediment or particulate matter in the gas, he claimed it must have come from the refinery or the transportation company.

Both stations were shut down for a few days until the gas was filtered and state inspectors could confirm that there wasn't sediment in their gas supply anymore.

The one question that still lingers is, what's in the gas and where is it coming from?

State inspectors don't test for it.  "How the trash gets in there, I don't know," said Marcum.

But some mechanics believe it could be rust.

It's a growing problem across the state.  Inspectors issued 101 stop sale orders across the state in 2010. That number went up to 139 in 2011.

Sediment isn't the only thing inspectors are finding in gasoline at local stations. They said water is also causing problems and a little bit can cause your car to malfunction.

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