Gas station owner says he’s not at fault after customer sold contaminated fuel

‘The owner actually told me that the state inspection means nothing,’ customer says

A South Florida man who spent $180 on a tank of diesel says he received bad fuel and a state inspection confirms problems at the pump.

COOPER CITY, Fla. – A South Florida man who spent $180 on a tank of diesel says he received bad fuel and a state inspection confirms problems at the pump.

Now questions are arising about who is responsible for the damage to his truck and what people should do if they think this has happened to them.

Local 10 News investigative reporter Jeff Weinsier confronted the gas station owner, who refused to take responsibility.

“Right away, when I went to take the nozzle out of my truck, I noticed a rotten animal smell. I knew something was wrong with the diesel fuel,” Daniel Colombo said.

And after Columbo drove his Ford F-350 away from the pump, he noticed it was having issues.

(WPLG)

“I get about 20 miles up the road from the gas station and noticed the engine was running rough,” he said. “At a point, my truck wouldn’t accelerate above 65 mph. The RPMs were sputtering up and down, aggressively -- check engine light came on for a bit.”

Columbo had filled up 38 gallons of gas into his truck at the Shell gas station at 9489 Sheridan Street in Cooper City.

The pump in question was shut down by the state after Columbo filed a complaint and an inspector was out the next day.

“He said he found high levels of sediment contamination in the fuel,” Columbo said. “He said there was so much sediment, he could see black sediment pieces in the fuel samples he took.”

The state report confirms the sediment was found in the diesel.

Columbo’s mechanic said his fuel system needs to be checked and if there is damage, it could be in the thousands to replace parts.

So Columbo did what any consumer would do – he spoke to the gas station owner.

“He said, ‘No one else has had an issue, so I’m not covering the damage.’” Columbo said. “I explained to him, ‘You sold me contaminated fuel, which has now damaged my truck,’ and he said, ‘I’m not paying you a penny.’”

“The owner actually told me that the state inspection means nothing -- that he is going to bring his own technician to do his own inspection, and that I should disregard the state inspection,” Columbo added.

Weinsier spoke to the gas station owner, who failed to accept responsibility.

“I wanted to talk to you about some bad gas and a customer,” Weinsier told Guido Javier.

“Talk to the inspector, he is out there,” Javier responded.

Javier claims his own technician checked the fuel.

“It was minimum particles,” he said. “The technician told me what they find does not create any damage on any vehicle at all, so I don’t know where that is coming from.”

“Do you do maintenance to your tanks?” Weinsier asked.

“The technician came in, we called the technician right away. The inspector shut down the pump,” Javier responded.

Javier didn’t provide us any records that show his tanks are maintained regularly and filters are changed.

Columbo said he would at least like his $180 back for the fill up.

“As far as your customer goes, where do you stand with your customer?” Weiniser asked Javier.

“Well, the technician says what was found in the diesel doesn’t create any damage,” Javier said.

“Last night, I actually syphoned out as much of the contaminated fuel as I could and topped it off with fresh fuel,” Columbo said. “It’s been slightly better but still running rough -- I think injectors are clogged up.”

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services receives over 400 complaints about bad gas a year and their labs test more than 30,000 samples.

If you think you bought bad gas, you can contact their consumer hotline. Their number, 1-800-HELP-FLA, is supposed to be displayed on every pump in the state.


About the Author:

Jeff Weinsier joined Local 10 News in September 1994. He is currently an investigative reporter for Local 10. He is also responsible for the very popular Dirty Dining segments.