5 On Your Side

Gas, Water Don't Mix For Raleigh Woman

Posted December 15, 2005

— Water in fuel is the most frequent complaint the state Department of Agriculture gets, but it is usually the most difficult to confirm. If there's water in the gas station's tank, it sinks to the bottom, and something has to stir it up for it to be pumped into your car. But when it happened to a Raleigh woman, she called Five On Your Side for help.

Paulette Alston said her problems happened in mid-October when she filled up at a Micromart Exxon on New Bern Avenue in Raleigh. She said the problems started just minutes down the road.

"I put my foot on the gas and before I knew it, the car started konking out, you know that 'chug, chug' sound, so I was able to drive into another business," she said.

Alston had to have the car towed. She immediately went to the gas station and talked with the manager. She said he told her to get proof the problem was the gas.

A mechanic confirmed water was in Alton's gas tank. The repair bill came to almost $1,100, but Micromart's insurance company denied her claim.

When Alston called Five On Your Side, we had her also file a complaint with the Department of Agriculture. An agency inspector looked into it and found out that the gas company had pumped "bottom water" out of its gas tank in October.

Five On Your Side then talked with Rod O'Donoghue, an attorney who represents the gas station. He said two other customers filed complaints about water damage from their gas. O'Donoghue said after a gas delivery, the cap was not put back on the tank and rain got in.

He immediately sent a check to cover the cost of the repairs, the towing and the tank of bad gas.

"Who would have thought just purchasing some gas can cost you so much money if the gas is damaged," Alston said.

If you think you have problems with the gas you get, you should file a complaint with the Department of Agriculture. They say the sooner they know, the better. Although "water in gas" is the most frequently reported fuel problem, it's the hardest to find.

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