ORLANDO, Fla. – A motorist received a nearly $13,000 vehicle repair bill after he said he filled the tank with contaminated diesel fuel purchased from an Orlando gas station.
State inspectors determined the diesel fuel stored in the station’s underground tank contained 99% water, records show.
The service station’s insurance provider reportedly assists the customer with his vehicle repair costs, the state has temporarily barred the station from selling diesel fuel until it resolves the water contamination issue.
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Nathanial Madanick drove his 2013 Audi Q7 SUV to the Amoco station at 601 N. John Young Parkway in early September, lured in part by a fuel discount promotion offered to military veterans.
Shortly after he began putting diesel fuel into his SUV, Madanick said the fuel pump became extremely slow.
“It was almost comical the way it was slowing down,” Madanick said.
He claims he waited more than 20 minutes to finish filling his tank to maximize his discount.
Although Madanick was able to drive away from the pump, he said the car stalled a few hundred feet from the gas station property.
“It comes to a grumbling, nasty, awful-sounding halt. The car just completely dies,” Madanick said.
He recorded a video that showed him unable to restart the ignition.
The SUV was towed to a mechanic, which later determined the car had sustained nearly $13,000 in damage to its fuel system.
“(The mechanic) said they’ve never seen anything like this,” Madanick said. “He’s seen fuel contamination before, but nothing this bad.”
As soon as he returned home from the service station, Madanick contacted the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), a state agency that oversees fuel quality.
The next day, an FDACS inspector collected a diesel fuel sample from the very same pump used by Madanick.
“Product dispensed was 99% water,” an inspection summary states.
FDACS immediately issued a “stop sale” order barring the service station from selling diesel fuel until it can demonstrate the contamination issue has been resolved.
The station is allowed to continue selling gasoline and other products.
Mital Saraiya, one of the gas station owners, said he voluntarily stopped selling diesel before the state intervened and has instructed the company’s insurance provider to review Madanick’s vehicle damage claim.
“We do apologize he had to go through that,” the gas station manager Ruben Monroe said. “It was our gas that did it.”
Monroe told News 6 the underground diesel fuel storage tank has been properly maintained since the company purchased the service station about a year ago.
Although the tanks already undergo monthly inspections, the manager said the service station will now conduct manual inspections every week.
Monroe suggested the extremely slow fuel pump should have been a sign to the customer that something might be wrong.
An FDACS representative told News 6 that slow dispensing of fuel is not related to contamination and does not alter fuel quality.
“There is no way for a consumer to identify contaminated fuel prior to dispensing it,” FDACS spokesperson Erin Moffet said. “However, consumers can help protect themselves by being aware of their surroundings. If a station’s parking lot is flooded, the consumer should avoid purchasing fuel from that location because underground storage tanks can become contaminated with water if the seals on the tank fills are missing or damaged.”
The agency encourages motorists to immediately contact FDACS at 1-800-HELP-FLA if they believe they purchased contaminated fuel.
“The (FDACS) Bureau of Standards responds to all fuel complaints, but performing an inspection quickly is essential to finding any problems that may exist,” Moffet said.
During the most recent fiscal year, FDACS received 444 consumer complaints related to fuel quality.
The agency performs about 400,000 inspections on petroleum devices and its laboratories run more than 37,000 fuel analyses, according to the spokesperson.
Another state agency, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, also initiated an inspection at the Orlando service station in response to Madanick’s complaint.
Orange County’s Environmental Protection Division, which conducted the inspection on behalf of the state, identified two “high priority” non-compliance issues and seven minor violations of Florida code related to the service station’s underground fuel storage tanks.
Saraiya, one of the service station’s owners, told News 6 the company is working to address the state and county concerns.