LEANDER, Texas (KXAN) - A Leander woman said she bought gas that has ruined her SUV's fuel system.
After getting nowhere with the Exxon Speedy Stop on North State Highway 183 at Leander Road, where she said she bought the gas, she contacted KXAN for help. KXAN was there when mechanics took her vehicle apart and examined the "dirty gas."
Angie Fitzgerald said she drove her 2008 Ford Expedition home after buying the gas from Speedy Stop. The next time she tried to drive it, the engine wouldn't turn over.
"My truck sat in my driveway for a couple days and my husband got in it to start it and it wouldn't start," Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald said she paid $68 for three-quarters of a tank last week at the Exxon Speedy Stop. The station is about a mile from her home in Leander, where she has bought gas for years. She said she and her husband had the SUV towed to a Ford dealership in Georgetown.
"We were later told the gas tank was filled with something other than gas," Fitzgerald said.
But if the source of the problem came from a gas pump, technicians in the dealership's service department are dumbfounded.
"You do see stuff come in where you do have something other than fuel in the gas tank. But like I said, that's typically a sign of vandalism," said Tyler Garrett, service adviser at Mac Haik Ford .
Fitzgerald said the SUV's gas tank lock was not tampered with and all she knows is the fuel pump is damaged.
"I mean, to have a full tank of something, the only place it could have come from was the gas station," Fitzgerald claimed.
Service technicians showed KXAN the fuel pump which had a gritty, black screen at the base. The techs said it's supposed to be white. But that's not the extent of the damage.
"We're going to have to replace the fuel injectors because it plugged up the fuel injectors," Garrett said. "We'll also have to replace the spark plugs because it's not firing anymore."
Then they'll have to flush the fuel lines and clean out the tank, Garrett said. Inside the tank is a soupy residue that looks more like a science experiment than gasoline. Garrett said he simply doesn't know what it could be.
"We could take our guesses but I have no idea. I've never smelled anything like it before," Garrett said.
The service techs tested how the mix burned. Once the gas burned off, small puddles of a liquid remained which were watery to the touch and a little sharp on the nose.
"It almost smells like water … almost like rusty, dirty water," Garrett said, describing the dirty gas.
Along with her time away from work, the problem will cost Fitzgerald big bucks on a 4-year-old SUV that she said ran great until this happened.
"It has caused $3,000 damage to the vehicle," said Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald also said her insurance will only cover her car rental, so far.
After KXAN talked to the Texas Department of Agriculture , the agency sent an inspector to the Leander Speedy Stop. He put gasoline samples from the pump in to dark bottles to take to a lab for analysis.
"Our lab will take a look at that and if there are any problems, we're going to go back out there and we'll take action at that gas station," said Bryan Black, a spokesman for the agency.
"We're one of Exxon's largest distributors," Speedy Stop spokesman Mark Gresham told KXAN by phone from the company's headquarters in Victoria. "We like regulators out there (at our stations) to make sure everyone's playing fair."
The Speedy Stop manager in Leander said he sells 3,000 gallons of gas a day. On Tuesday, it appeared to be businesses as usual. He said no one else has complained.
As for Fitzgerald, a mother of two, she's hoping for some real results soon. She wants the gas station to cover the cost of her repairs and reimburse her for that three-quarters of a tank of gas.
"I'm furious! Basically I've paid $150 a gallon for this tank of gas!" Fitzgerald said.
KXAN took samples of the suspicious gasoline for testing at a private lab. We offered a sample to the Texas Department of Agriculture but were told by law the agency can only draw and test gas samples from the suspected pump at the suspected gas station, not from a driver's vehicle.
Although it's been a week since Fitzgerald purchased the gas, Texas Department of Agriculture said initial, visual tests of gas samples taken from the Speedy Stop were clear. But inspectors won't know for sure if the gas sampled is nothing but good, quality gasoline until after lab results come back.
KXAN will follow up and make public the results.
The Texas Department of Agriculture urges consumers to contact them immediately if you have a problem at the pump. You can call in a complaint at 1-800-TELL-TDA or send an email to TELLTDA@TexasAgriculture.gov . You can also file online via the agency's website .
If you think you purchased dirty gas KXAN wants to know. Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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