Operator of Upstate gas station that caused cars to break down: ‘We will make this right’

SYRACUSE (TNS) — The operator of a Central New York gas station said he will do everything possible to make things right for his customers after multiple reports of cars breaking down after water was pumped into their gas tanks.

The town of Onondaga gas station was forced to shut down its fuel pumps July 18, 19 and most of Tuesday, Singh said.

“It is very unfortunate that this happened,” Singh said. “The DEC made sure we fixed everything, so we are back to normal.”

Singh said seven people have come into the store in the last few days to complain about the gas and give him an invoice for the damage to their cars. He said there were probably more complaints but because the customers may have used their own insurance he wasn’t sure of the exact number.

Singh is asking customers who have a vehicle that was damaged by the fuel from his store to bring him an invoice and proof they purchased gas from the station.

“I spoke with our insurance company and they are handling it,” he said. “I understand everyone is frustrated right now. These customers need to get paid for their losses.”

The Post-Standard reported Friday that 16 people had car break downs after buying regular fuel at the gas station, formerly known as Murphy’s. Based on social media posts by others, the number of people who had car troubles after gassing up could be higher.

Each of the drivers said repairs have totaled hundreds of dollars to as much as $1,300.

The state DEC spill response team discovered a leaky valve on Wednesday while inspecting the gas station’s underground fuel storage tanks and pipes, according to a state DEC spokesperson.

Following the inspection, the gas station was cited Friday for a leaking vapor recovery valve, which was repaired after it was found, the spokesperson said in an email Friday.

The second violation was related to the station’s improper recording of tank inventory, the spokesperson said. All necessary records were present, but not summarized in a way where trends could be easily observed, she said. Station management was subsequently given a daily fuel inventory form for reporting the data, she said.

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Singh said his family’s business uses an automated system provided by Veeder-Root, a company that sells fueling equipment and services to retail gas stations. Every morning he gets a receipt that tells him how much gas was sold the previous day and other vital information such as how many inches of water are in the tank, he said.

Singh, who has worked in the gas industry for over 30 years, said it is common for there to be a small amount of water in fuel tanks. He said the state allows up to 2 inches of water to gather at the bottom of the tanks.

“Everybody has a small amount of water that usually sits at the bottom of the tank,” he said. “Nobody wants it in their fuel tank, but its pretty common.”

The state DEC will review the gas station’s next 30 days of tank inventory data to ensure it is being done properly, the DEC spokesperson said. The state will also continue its oversight of the station to ensure its compliance, she said.

The relentless rainfall that plagued Central New York this month and the faulty tank equipment may have caused the problems. The leaky valve on the tank may have allowed water into the gas.

“There is nothing that we did wrong,” Singh said. “This is what they call natural cause. We get three or four hundred customers everyday, and only a small amount were affected.”

While the fuel pumps were shut down Tuesday, Singh said new filters were installed that will prevent water from getting into a vehicle.

“We want to continue to provide our customers with the very best service,” he said. “We will make this right.”