9 Investigates

9 Investigates: Tainted gasoline complaints on the rise across NC

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Most people around the Carolinas are saving a lot of money at the pump lately -- but not everyone is getting what they're paying for.

Every 12 months, North Carolina inspectors try to visit every gas station in the state to ensure what's going into your car is the same thing on the label.

[ALSO READ: Water discovered in fuel at gas stations after cars stall following recent downpours]

Channel 9 uncovered that samples at more than 1,000 stations in 2018 were condemned by the state in North Carolina. That means samples were found to be contaminated with water, sediment or weren’t the correct octane, which can ruin your car.

"Got gas, left the gas station, pulled up, car died, and as I'm pushing other cars broke at same time,” Ron Goetz said. He said his car had to be towed from Bethpage Grocery in December 2018 after water-tainted gas ruined his engine.

Goetz wasn’t alone. At least seven other drivers had the same problem. The owner picked up the repair bills, shelling out nearly $12,000.

Channel 9 wanted to know how many stations in our area were cited for selling contaminated gas. The Department of Agriculture provided a list showing dozens of problems in 2018.

Channel 9 found a pattern in that list. Of the 53 samples that were condemned at gas stations in Mecklenburg County last year, nearly 40 percent were at Circle Ks.

The Circle K on Albemarle Road was accused of selling gas tainted with water, and according to the state, the Circle K on Rea Road had water in the pumps last March.

Eyewitness News anchor John Paul went to both stations to ask the managers what happened. They referred him to their corporate office, which hasn’t returned his calls.

Paul then went to the regional office on Tyvola Road, where he was given him an email address.

The complany explained that of the 20 condemnations, it was only informed of one station with water in a pump and responded in part, "At Circle K, we guarantee the quality of our fuels. However, issues do occasionally arise, and customers should report them..."

The state explained the other 19 samples may have cleared up within 48 hours, and the stations weren’t notified.

As Channel 9 was working on this report, state inspectors were called out to the Circle K on Don Lochman Lane in Ballantyne.

“I was actually brought here over a complaint,” fuel inspector Daniel Gonzalez said.

That complaint was lodged by Alisa Wenning. She said she spent nearly $1,000 to fix her car after the mechanic found sediment in her tank, but she didn’t report it to the state for nearly a month.

The inspector didn’t find anything wrong on the day he was called to the station.

State officials said that’s a good lesson. If you have a problem after filling up, call the number on the pump right away.

You just might prevent someone else from facing a pricey repair bill.

“If you have issues immediately after putting gas in your car, you need to call immediately to the state,” Wenning said.

State inspectors said all the rain in the area over the last six months could be a reason water was found in many of the pumps last year.