A Martinez gas station that closed its gas pumps last week because of tainted gasoline has now stopped selling diesel fuel until the problem is fixed.
The diesel fuel pumps at the Circle K at 457 Old Evans Road were bagged and marked “out of order” Monday while waiting for state officials to approve the sale of fuel.
The problems began Oct. 23, when an A&W Oil Co. tanker driver dropped gasoline into the station’s diesel tanks and diesel into the gasoline tanks, according to Rich Lewis, the Georgia Department of Agriculture Fuel and Measures Division director.
“They knew they had a problem with the unleaded,” Lewis said, adding that tainted gasoline was only sold for about an hour. “Once they realized it started to be a problem, they started backtracking to see what happened.”
No one at Circle K’s corporate office or the store could be reached for comment.
Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Mary Katherine Yearta said a member of the news media alerted the department of the problem on Thursday.
“We locked the pumps and issued a stop-sale order,” she said.
Station personnel shut down the affected gasoline pumps Wednesday and pumped and cleaned the underground tanks, Lewis said. A state Agriculture Department inspector visited the station on Thursday and tested the gasoline, which was fine. The pumps were opened back up when the gasoline passed state testing, Yearta said.
But during Thursday’s inspection, state officials discovered that the diesel fuel was also tainted with gasoline.
“The diesel did fail, but it barely failed,” Lewis said. “It had some gas in it, but not much.”
The diesel pumps were then shut down until those tanks could be pumped and cleaned.
Lewis said company officials should have contacted the Agriculture Department about the problem, but are not required to do so.
“It’s a good business practice,” Yearta said.
Lewis did not know how many customers purchased the tainted gasoline, but he said Circle K officials know the names of the owners of vehicles damaged.
“They also are working with everyone who was affected to make sure their cars are repaired,” Lewis said.
No one at Circle K’s corporate office or the store could be reached for comment. Yearta said the Agriculture Department investigation into the incident is ongoing. Similar events happen about 10 times a year statewide, she said.
“It does happen, but it’s not frequent,” Yearta said. “The majority of the time, it is an accident.”
A&W Oil President John Sylvester refused to speak to a reporter on the matter and did not return a message left at his office.