Florida officials are warning of a “potentially widespread fuel contamination” that may have resulted in people getting fuel from some Florida gas stations that could harm or disable their engines just as Tropical Storm Idalia may put residents on the road or in search of gas to power their generators.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services issued an alert Sunday afternoon stating that gas that was supplied out of Port Tampa Bay by Citgo had become contaminated because of “human error.”
People who received fuel from more than two dozen gas stations across Florida’s Gulf Coast, including several in the immediate Tampa area, could have contaminated fuel if it was purchased after 10 a.m. Saturday, according to the agency.
Citgo-supplied gas stations as far south as Fort Myers and as north as Brooksville were believed to have received the contaminated fuel, according to the agency.
The alert initially said that Citgo “will not release the list of gas stations that received contaminated fuel” but that state officials knew that fuel from the port “serves gas stations in the greater Tampa region north to Chiefland, and on the west side of Florida south to Naples.”
“Citgo sells gas to BJs, 7-Eleven, and also some unbranded stations,” department officials said in the alert, noting that they “will send a more accurate list as it becomes available.”
The state later released the stations that were believed to have received the contaminated fuel. (The list of stations is at the bottom of this story.)
The announcement was made soon after Tropical Storm Idalia formed. The storm is expected to become a hurricane later this week and threaten the west coast of Florida, where the contaminated fuel was distributed.
The issue was raised at a news conference Gov. Ron DeSantis held Sunday afternoon to talk about storm preparation.
“It has nothing to do with the storm, but it’s happening right on the eve of the storm,” he said.
DeSantis acknowledged the fuel situation may complicate matters.
”You’re going to have people potentially just stuck on the side of the road, I mean, if you fill up your tank with diesel and then you start driving it, it’s not going to end well,” he said.
Gas that is contaminated with diesel fuel has “the potential of causing engine damage or affecting operability,” the department’s alert states.
“Impacted stations have been asked to stop selling gas until the contaminated fuel is replaced and tanks are cleaned. Once the stations are cleared or have completed a corrective action plan fuel will once again be safe for purchase,” the alert states.
A spokesperson for Port Tampa Bay said Citgo is a “privately-held terminal,” which means the port itself has no oversight over Citgo’s facility, even though it rests within the port’s footprint. That means any details about the “human error” leading to fuel contamination would have to come directly from the company, according to spokesperson Lisa Wolf-Chason.
”They employ their own people, they have their own operators, and they own the land they operate off of,” Wolf-Chason said in a phone interview. “I know this is unfortunate news for Citgo, but we have been working with other fuel operators to make sure they’re prepared for the storm and can help supply the state with fuel.”
State officials opened a hotline to receive complaints from people who believe they bought the bad fuel. People can call 1-800-435-7352 or make a complaint at fdacs.gov.
The state also is “coordinating with petroleum retailers, ports and all additional stakeholders to ensure that this disruption won’t be widespread and that residents can have seamless access to fuel,” the alert states.
The Florida Department of Emergency Management also has “waived size, weight, and hour restrictions to get resources into the state as quickly and efficiently as possible,” the alert states.
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