Water & Low Octane Found At Local Gas Pumps

By Jack Fink, CBS 11 News

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Felicia Allen got an unpleasant surprise when she filled up her car last year; the gas had water in it. “I had to take this car and pay $1,000 on it because the fuel injection got messed up because of the gas.”  That’s one reason state inspectors check the quality of gas at pumps around the state.

This past January, inspectors found water in the gas at the Get n’ Go station on Audelia Road in Dallas.  The manager told us he believes the fuel was delivered that way.

And last September, the state found water in the gas at the McCorner gas station on Northwest Expressway in Grapevine.  A station representative says water got into the underground tank after the deliveryman forgot to put the cap on.

Brian McKevitt, a master technician at Sam Pack Ford in Carrollton says water in gas can wreak havoc.  “Worst case is you’d have to replace the engine, and that could range anywhere from $3,000 to $7,000 or up for a diesel, it would be way over that.”

Amador Hernandez is among the field inspectors testing the gas quality.   “If there’s water in it, it’ll settle to the bottom and you’d see a bubble.”

So how does this happen?

Stephen Benjamin, the director of the North Carolina department of agriculture’s standards division, says water can get into a gas station’s underground storage tanks if there’s a leak in the system.

It can also happen when gas is being delivered to a station.

Felicia Allen wishes she had known the state has a fuel testing program-when she discovered poor quality gas had damaged her car.

When asked if she knew she could file a complaint with the state and have them investigate that station, Allen said, “No, I didn’t know that. So I just took my losses and left and never went back.”

The state also tests the octane levels at 2500 pumps across the state each year.

Some cars will start knocking and pinging if the octane levels is too low, and state law requires stations to sell fuel at the octane level stated on the pump. Hernandez says, “If it’s posted for whatever grade it is, you need to make sure you’re getting that grade.”

On the day CBS 11 followed him, Hernandez concluded many Fort Worth gas stations passed the test.  But state records obtained by CBS 11 show between January 2008 through the end of February of this year, there were 25 different gas stations in Dallas, Tarrant, Collin, and Denton counties that didn’t pass.

We found an extreme example, up in Denton, at the Chevron along I-35 and university.

Last November, the mid-grade’s 89 octane actually had a lot less than even regular unleaded – just 79 octane.

After conducting field tests, inspectors send the samples to a lab for confirmation. Hernandez says, “If it came back from the lab that it failed, then I would go back and do a re-inspection. If it failed on the re-inspection, then I would issue a stop sale.”

During a follow-up inspection the following week, the mid-grade 89 at the Denton station only measured up to 87.7 octane — and the premium 93 octane only tested at 92.1.

The station adjusted the pump labels to accurately reflect what was really in the pump — so it could continue selling the gas.  The manager declined comment.

Last year, 13 percent of octane samples statewide failed to match the tag on the pump.  The department of agriculture issued 46 violations.  Aside from the state tests, consumers really have no real way of knowing what’s in the fuel.

So we asked experts why there’s sometimes less octane than advertised?  They say most of the time, it’s not a problem with the gas itself, but the pump.

Texas consulted with Stephen Benjamin of the North Carolina standards division and other experts when it began the fuel quality-testing program. “Typically, what we see today is the pumps themselves may blend the product, or there’s a valve in the pump that switches those products, so it could be a mechanical problem, it could be a computer chip problem.”

Drivers may not care what’s causing the problem, but with prices this high, they absolutely want to make sure they’re getting their money’s worth.

Consumers can file a complaint against a gas station with the department of agriculture on their website, or you can also call the agency at 1-800 TELL-TDA.


One Comment

  1. Diane says:

    Why didn’t your story address the separation of ethanol into water and gas when it’s used as an additive? Ethanol destroys both large and small engines, and the percentage in our gas will go up to 15% soon. This was started by G.W. Bush, and congress needs to address it, unless they expect us all to be walking because our cars won’t start.

  2. Mike Duncan says:

    Hello Mr. Fink,

    There’s one more very important thing you didn’t take into account in your story. Most people are not aware that the gasoline they might be buying is not the brand they assume it to be. I have personally witnessed what I call “no name gas” (generic) being delivered to gas stations advertising “Texaco, Chevron, and Shell”. What I found is that these gas stations/convenience stores are franchise-owned, and these owners have no agreements that compel them to purchase gasoline from the parent company. These people buy from whomever will give them the best price regardless of the maker of the gasoline. I no longer buy my gas from any station that is not actually company owned. My car was damaged due to bad gasoline a few months ago, and it’s only recently that the I’ve corrected the fuel injector problems. Just thought you should know. Please pass this on. Thank you.

    Mike Duncan
    Dallas, Texas

    1. chris says:

      I ve long thought all the gas comes from the same place…..all the major trucks pull up to the refinery to fill up….the only difference is the additive that each puts in…..you know, thats why you pay extra is for the techron..

    2. Gumby Rules says:

      Chris’ comment below is correct. The gas at the station you frequent is delivered to a pumping station where the truck driver pulls up to abnd selects the type of gfas and the additives are mixed in as the truck is filling. The driver leaves for his route to whatever station (Texaco, Chevron, Shell, etc.) his truck is filled with gasoline for.

      I know this because I have a friend who is an administrative secretary for a company who owns the pumping station(s).

  3. Craig says:

    My family has resided in north Tx for 6 generations. Most of that time whe have been involved in the wholesale, retail, and delievery of petroleom products to the motoring public. Your storey thur. night on the evils of our industry was very un informative, misleading, inaccurate, and lazy reporting. Very disappointed. Perhaps you might someday seek truth from knowledge rather than ratings from anger feeding.

    1. BDK says:

      Tell that to the people who’s engines are destroyed. Additionally, you give no compelling information to back up your biased rant.

  4. Jessy Palmer says:

    Thanks for the interesting topics! I admire the valuable information you offer in your articles.

  5. FedUpTxn says:

    The Department of Agriculture is supposed to inspect the pumps on a regular basis and put an inspection sticker on them similar to the one’s on cars. Check your local pumps and you’ll find this is RARELY done with stickers out of date for YEARS. I’d also like to see an investigation of pump owners who intentionally set their pumps so that it registers more gallons than actually pumped to increase their profits. I had one Texico gas station in Frisco ADMIT they did this and that was why their price was lower than other stations, because customers were getting less than the pump said!

  6. zagwee says:

    Oh wow thats jsut great. Four bucks a gallon and I am getting watered down nonsense? Thanks.

  7. Thomas sumrstine says:

    Oh come on!! This is a very common thing that can be fixed with a bottle of HEET brand gas treatment..This stuff makes the water more burnable by sitting on the bottom of the tank with the water and mixing with it. The store where the lady bought the gas needs to hire a service to come out and pump the water out of the storage tanks. When I was in the business it was a pain to do but they will come out and use some special gear to pump the water out of the underground storage tank. Since water is heavier than gasoline it is rather simple. The down side to it is paying the recovery fees for the water to be disposed of properly.

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