Plymouth Resident Purchases Watered-Down Gas, What To Do If It Happens to You
Kim Hecomovich and her husband both work from their Plymouth home and share a vehicle. When they were without it last month because it broke down, it was not the best situation.
“It was a pain in the butt!” said Hecomovich.
She’d gone to fill it up at the Holiday convenience store nearest her house and then drove right home. An hour or so later, she said her husband hopped in to go run some errands.
He made it about 100 yards down their street.
“I get a call about a minute later saying the car started violently shaking, and it just completely died,” she said.
Five hours later, it had finally been towed to the BMW dealership where they bought it.
“[The service tech] told me that this was the third BMW today that they had seen with this issue. They thought they knew what it was, but they would call to confirm,” she said. About an hour later, I got a text message [picture] of a water bottle filled, about 95 percent water, and the very top was gasoline.”
Hecomovich reported it to the Holiday station and then called the Minnesota Department of Commerce’s Weights and Measures division the next day.
“They sent somebody out there that day,” she said.
The department dispatches its workers out across the state to inspect the more than 2,000 gas stations on a regular, if not seemingly random, basis.
“We take samples when there are complaints, and when our inspectors go out for a routine inspection of the station to verify the dispensers dispensing the correct quantity, if we would find a problem with a product, we would then take a sample then,” said Director Greg VanderPlaats.
VanderPlaats said his office — which essentially ensures consumers get what they pay for — did receive complaints about the Golden Valley Holiday station in April. They sent out a tech to get a sample and it showed water in the tank.
“We received additional complaints in early May, sent an inspector back out, found that the station had put the product back on sale without our approval, again found problems, ordered the product off-sale. Took samples. Found problems with those samples. That product continues to be off-sale,” he said.
Stickers over the premium and mid-grade unleaded fuels are visible from the street at the station. Owners of Holiday Stationstores, Circle K, have not responded to requests from CCX Media.
VanderPlaats explained why water showing up in underground gas tanks is not uncommon in Minnesota.
“It happens because of our climate and the amount of snow we get in the winter, the freeze-thaw cycle. When the ground is frozen and we get a thaw cycle, a lot of times that water is trapped in a parking lot at a gas station and if things are not properly sealed for an underground tank, that water may find its way into a tank,” he said.
His office received 75 consumer complaints across all categories between January 1 and May 15, and nearly half of those were about gas purchases.
“We encourage consumers, if they think there’s a problem, to call as soon as possible,” said VanderPlaats. “The longer they wait, the more likely it is that that station will receive additional loads of gasoline, replacing what’s in the tank, and when we follow-up we may not find a problem.”
“We were really lucky it happened in our neighborhood, and we’re not right off an on-ramp on a freeway,” said Hecomovich, whose car is repaired. “We’re lucky it happened 100 yards away and we could walk back home and wait.”