FOX 5 I-Team: Is bad gas a "real" problem?

FOX 5 I-Team: Is bad gas a "real" problem?

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It's not uncommon for FOX 5 to get calls from people complaining about bad gas or not enough gas from gas pumps. But how common is the problem?

Back in the fall, FOX 5 was on the scene of a DeKalb County gas station. A number of customers complained to state regulators that their cars stopped from water-tainted gasoline.

People on the scene last October said, "My car stalled. I was scared. All these cars was coming up and down the street."

"It cut off in the middle of the street. Right there. Cut off, said the gas has water in it," said another customer whose car stopped after pumping gas.

State records back up their claims that a DeKalb County Citgo was serving up watered down gasoline. In this case, it was a maintenance issue, but it prompted the I-Team to pull five years' worth of statewide gas pump inspections to see how often customers might get bad gas or not enough gas.

"We're state fuel inspectors with the Department of Agriculture," announced state gas inspector Exzavier Nash as he entered a DeKalb County Texaco.

"We're going to run a routine inspection on all your pumps."

They work in a mobile lab. They check for water in the gasoline.

Nash told us, "We're going to check for water in the underground tanks. There can be no more than a quarter inch of water.

We're going to apply some paste on the measuring sticks here."

He dipped them into the tanks below, and all was good. No water. At another pump they eyeballed a gas sample in a Ball jar. It was good again.

But these men know what consumers worry about -- their wallet. With the high price of gas these days, do you get what you pay for? It's all in the accuracy of the calibration. If you pay for five gallons of gas, you want five gallons.

And this is where they run into a problem.

At one of these tanks what was being read on the pump didn't match what was coming out of the nozzle. But it's not what you might think.

The inspector broke the news to the owner.

"That calibration came out at a plus 14 which means you're giving away gas. (Owner: Oh wow! Number 10?) Yes, number 10, based off what I've calculated you're giving away about one cent per gallon. (Oh my god!)."

The pump got a yellow bag around the nozzle shutting it down, but it wasn't the state inspector making that call; it was the owner.

And that's no surprise to state agriculture commissioner Gary Black who offered up an interesting statistic, "Seventy percent of the infractions that we find, or corrections that we have to make, are actually at stations where it's in the benefit of the consumer."

Yep, 70 percent of the time gas stations with failed calibrations give you more gas than you paid for.

And what's more, those pumps with water in the line, inspector Exzavier Nash says, is rarely ever on purpose.

"A lot of times it's assumed the station is putting water in the system so they can make better sales. That's never the case."

Here is a recommendation by the commissioner himself: Use a gas station that has high volume, if you can. It has less of a chance of impurities and water getting into your tank. Also, he added, make sure it's a station that appears to be well-maintained.

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