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‘It’s unimaginable’: Concerns arise after 2 drivers find water in their vehicle’s gas

ORLANDO, Fla. — The flood risk to homes and apartments across Central Florida after Hurricane Ian struck has been obvious. But few drivers would suspect there could be a water problem at the gas pump, too.

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Chris Lipsey thought his Ford F-150 truck’s engine was dying right on the road. The steering wheel would not stop shaking.

“Sputtering in the rear end, basically (the truck) was acting like it wanted to come to a complete stop,” Lipsey said.

According to Lipsey, he had just filled his tank at the Sunoco Gas Station on Geneva Drive in Oviedo, so he suspected something was wrong with the gas.

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“It’s never something you think is going to happen to you,” he said.

Lipsey called a good friend who was a mechanic. Together, they spent five hours emptying the tank and clearing all the gas lines.

He showed us two clean quart bottles of murky water he drained from the tank and said they removed a total of 17 gallons of water.

Later, Lipsey found out a neighbor just down the street had bought gas at the same station on the same day.

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Jaime Pinto told us he filled up the tank of his Mercedes E-400 at the Sunoco station and within minutes, the engine seized.

“We tried to get it running again, and it wouldn’t start. Then, I had to call a tow truck,” Pinto said.

Pinto’s car is at the repair shop now. He has been told repairs could cost from several hundred to about two thousand dollars.

“Then they have to drain it and see if there are any more repairs,” he said.

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Both consumers contacted the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which regulates petroleum sales.

The agency sent an inspector to the gas station within 24 hours.

Action 9 checked with the state, which said that since the storm hit, there have been 50 complaints involving gas stations, and so far, 22 cases could be attributed to water in the gas.

The agency also confirmed its inspector found water contamination at the Sunoco Station on Geneva Drive, and it ordered the pumps shut down.

The station’s owner told Action 9 that a leak had been repaired, and he’s waiting on another state inspection before the pumps are turned back on.

After an inspection verifies contamination, state regulations require the station to pay consumers for their losses, including engine repairs.

Lipsey is thankful for the quick action by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and said an inspection of his vehicle confirmed there was water in the gas.

“It’s unimaginable how fast it can hit you,” he said.

Your gas can also be contaminated after purchase, so it’s important to contact the Florida Department of Agriculture right away so its inspection can verify what happened.

Submit a claim to the agency by phone or online and save all your receipts for gas, towing and repairs.

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Todd Ulrich

Todd Ulrich, WFTV.com

I am WFTV's Action 9 Reporter.

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