By Catharin Shepard
Drivers who fueled up their vehicles at an Alco gas station near the Hoke-Moore County line earlier this month ran into problems due to a fuel delivery mix-up, according to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture.
A fuel delivery driver apparently put diesel fuel in the gasoline tank and gasoline in the diesel fuel tank at the Alco #27, located on N.C. 211 across from the Aberdeen Fire and Rescue station, the state agency’s Motor Fuels Section said. “My understanding is that it looks like on the second of July, the station received a cross drop of diesel in the regular storage tank and regular gasoline in the diesel storage tank,” motor fuels inspection manager Marcus Helfrich said.
Seth Wagoner, who works at Maxwell’s Garage in Raeford, found out about the situation when a friend of his unknowingly put the wrong type of fuel in his work vehicle. Wagoner and his friend filmed a video he then uploaded to Facebook that showed gasoline coming out of the diesel pump at the Alco #27 gas station.
They took the video after arguing with a gas station attendant about the problem, Wagoner said.
“That’s my buddy’s truck, they had basically called us liars,” he said. Wagoner had to tow the truck because it was not drivable.
“The pump clearly states ‘DIESEL,’ the fuel dispensed is clearly pure gasoline. Their mistake cost a $150 tow fee, $400 labor to drain and clean the fuel system and who knows what else in the future due to incorrect fuel added to the Ugly Buck’s Wild Game Products company truck,” Wagoner wrote in a comment on the video he uploaded.
The video had more than 90,000 views and over 1,200 shares on social media.
The Motor Fuels Section received five separate complaints from drivers who experienced trouble after filling up their vehicles at the Alco #27 station. The office sent inspectors to the gas station July 5 to check the fuel tanks. At that time the gasoline “tested fine,” but the diesel showed evidence of contamination by gasoline, Helfrich said.
After the Department of Agriculture discovered the mix-up, state agents shut down the gas station to keep it from selling more of the contaminated fuel. The gas station pumped out the old product twice to clear out its storage tanks. Inspectors went to the station Monday to re-check the tanks to see if the station could start selling fuel again.
“They are ready for a new inspection,” Helfrich said.
Of the five complaints filed with the state, two involved diesel engines contaminated with gasoline and three gas-powered engines contaminated with diesel fuel. While the state can track the number of complaints, officials couldn’t say how many drivers in total may have been affected by the fuel mix-up.
Putting the wrong type of fuel into an engine not designed for it can have a variety of effects depending several factors, including the model and year of the vehicle, Helfrich said. A gasoline engine contaminated with diesel fuel typically reacts sluggishly.
“What ends up happening is it doesn’t burn very well in your car, your car will run very, very inefficiently. If there’s enough diesel in the fuel, it will just turn off,” Helfrich said.
Diesel engines contaminated with gasoline are at risk for damage due to the way the engine works, he said. The complaints filed with the state didn’t specify what type of damage, or the extent of the damage to the vehicles contaminated with the wrong type of fuel – but there were problems reported.
“A lot of people said their car broke,” Helfrich said.
Mistakes like this can happen when a delivery driver mixes up which underground storage tank is which, but such accidents are fairly rare in North Carolina.
“It’s well less than one percent of the time. For the most part everything is good to go,” Helfrich said.
Albemarle Oil Company is compensating his friend for the damages to the vehicle, Wagoner said.
Drivers affected by the fuel mix-up can contact Albemarle Oil Company at (704) 982-2181 for more information.