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With quick thaw and melting snow, there is risk of water getting into gasoline

2/17/2017 3:41:47 PM

For Immediate Release:

As the state experiences unseasonably warm temperatures with melting snow while the ground is still frozen, the Minnesota Commerce Department advises Minnesota motorists to be aware of the potential risk of excessive water getting into their gasoline.

Earlier this week, the Commerce Department’s Weights & Measures Division received consumer complaints about water-tainted gas at a station in Chanhassen. An inspection determined that surface water had leaked into the underground tank holding 87 octane gas. The Commerce Department shut down the station’s 87 octane pumps until the problem is fixed.

Water inadvertently getting into a gas station’s underground tank is not common, but it is also not unheard of. It typically happens when there is a fast melt of snow while the ground remains frozen. Water can flow and pool on the station’s concrete surface lot, potentially leaking into an underground tank that is not fully sealed.

During this February “heat wave,” the Commerce Department offers these tips for Minnesota motorists:

Don’t wait until your tank is nearly empty before filling up. Excessive water can separate from the gas and accumulate in the bottom of your tank. The ethanol blended with gas actually protects against water (up to point) by absorbing it. But when it reaches a saturation point, the water will “phase separate” to form a distinct layer in the tank.

Be aware of how your vehicle is performing. If you filled up a nearly empty tank with water-tainted gas, you may notice an immediate problem with your vehicle’s performance, including possibly stalling out. Or your vehicle may initially operate without a problem, but then will not start up again after being parked for a while.

Keep the receipt from your most recent gas purchase. If there is a problem with the gas, you will need proof of your purchase to seek reimbursement for any vehicle repair costs. While water in gas will not usually ruin a car engine, it can still require repairs costing several hundred dollars to drain and clean the tank and gas lines.

If you suspect a problem, report it. Contact the gas station to alert them to a potential problem with the gas. Also contact the Commerce Department’s Weights & Measures Division at 651-539-1555. An inspector will be sent to the station to investigate and test the gas. If water-tainted gas is found, the inspector will require the station to shut down the affected pumps and correct the source of the problem.

Media Contact:
Ross Corson
Director of Communications
Minnesota Department of Commerce
P: 651-539-1463 | C: 651-368-5050 | ross.corson@state.mn.us

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