Foul gasoline complaints increase statewide following Hurricane Irma

A general view of a Shell gasoline station where U.S. Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte claims to have been robbed. (Photo: Glenn Andrews/USA TODAY Sports)
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ST PETERSBURG, Fla. – Complaints of foul gasoline at Florida’s 9,000 gas stations have increased following Hurricane Irma.

“We are getting a lot of complaints about the quality of the gasoline that they are purchasing from the stations,” said Chloe Smith, a Tampa-area supervisor for the Department of Agriculture’s Weights and Measures Division, which is in charge of monitoring gas pumps.

Complaints typically center around water getting into underground fuel storage tanks, Smith said.

Heavy rain and flood water can seep into the tanks, which can cause thousands of dollars in damage if it gets into a vehicle engine.

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“You’re going to experience sputtering,” Smith said of car that get water-tainted gasoline. “In extreme cases, your car might shut off in the parking lot of the gas station itself.”

Smith advises those who experience sputtering and vehicle shut-off to stop driving the vehicle immediately, contact a mechanic and report the specific gas station to the state at 1-800-HELP-FLA.

In Tampa alone, the Department of Agriculture has six teams responding to complaints and conducting unscheduled “sweep” inspections at gas stations.

Some gas stations were shut down, but Smith couldn’t give exact numbers.

Inspectors are also looking for electronic skimmers that may have been placed on gas pumps while gas stations were closed during the storm.

Inspectors try to respond to complaints within 24 hours, Smith said.

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