BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. - Some area drivers want to know if the gas at a Boynton Beach gas station is contaminated after their cars broke down. They called the Consumer Watchdog for help.
Treasure Coast Towing said they towed at least four cars Saturday that had problems after they filled up at the Mobil Station at Hypoluxo and Congress in Boynton Beach (4798 Congress).
If Michael Francois wants to go somewhere, he has to walk. He says his car suddenly stopped working with a fresh tank of gas.
"The check engine light came on and then the car started losing power," said Francois.
His Camaro broke down a few blocks from the Mobil gas station, and had to be towed to the repair shop.
"That's the main line that brings fuel to the engine," said Edson Forestal of Damas Auto Repair.
Damas took a sample of gas from Francois's tank.
"I can see the fuel is contamined with water," said Forestal.
He also took a sample from a car without gas issues.
"You can see the difference here. That one is yellow and that one is reddish like it's mix with water and fuel," said Forestal.
Chris Clevan fueled his car about an hour after Francois. His car also died near the station.
We asked why he thinks the gas is to blame.
"My car was running perfectly fine before that," said Clevan.
We asked if he called the Florida Department of Agriculture, the agency that investigates bad gas complaints.
"No I didn't," said Clevan.
Both drivers told us they didn't know who to call after they say the Mobil station didn't help them. That's why one driver reached out to the Consumer Watchdog.
The state relies on consumer complaints because it only has enough staff to do a routine inspection once every 18 months.
"We wish we could get around to maybe once a year like we did years ago. It's just not possible," said Bruce Derocher, Agriculture and Consumer Protection Supervisor.
Derocher said the staffing is the same despite development of new gas stations.
The state follows up on every consumer complaint, but often can't verify the problem.
In all of 2013, only 6 stations in our area were found to have gas with water or sediment. That's one of the biggest issues that can cause a car to malfunction.
We asked the state inspector why he thinks there is a disconnect -- mechanics say there is water in the case and the state can't find it.
"I think sometimes people don't maintain their cars as well as they should," said Derocher. "Here's another thing we look at. How many consumer complaints did we get at that location? If you have hundreds of cars rolling through here and one person calls what's the chance of that being a valid complaint?"
Victory Petroleum runs the station. Vice President of Retail Operations, John Peach, spent several hours at the station. He said his office is investigating the issue. Victory has received three complaints.
It should be noted, one of the hardest hit areas hit areas by flooding on Friday is about a block from here. That's the Meadows apartment complex.
It's unknown if the flooding and the questions about this gas are related.
Victory Petroleum told me they have controls in place to prevent water from getting in their underground tanks during a flood or major rainstorm.
The state has also taken a sample, and the station will continue to look into the issue and work with the station.
If you ever suspect bad gas or an issue with a station, report the problem to the Florida Department of Agriculture as soon as possible. You can reach the state online and by phone (1-800-HELP-FLA).