HOLMES BEACH, Fla. (WFLA) — After Anna Maria Island neighbors spent much of Hurricane Idalia worrying about whether or not their homes would flood (and some did), they didn’t think filling up at a local gas station would cause even more problems.
But Cheryl Perez’s son was driving to Tampa when his issues started.
“Got onto the Manatee Bridge,” Perez recalled. “He was at the hump on the top of the bridge when the car stalled. Calls me and asks me to please call the police.”
He had his truck towed to the local auto shop.
“The first thing they asked him was, ‘You didn’t happen to get gas at the Shell station, did you?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, about 15, 20 minutes ago,'” Perez said. “They said, ‘Oh, you’re the fifth or sixth car that’s called us. The cars have stalled after they’ve gotten gas.'”
The Shell station on Marina Drive in Holmes Beach had flooded during Idalia, and the storm surge covered nearly a foot off the ground. ATCO, Inc., the company that owns the gas station, confirmed to 8 On Your Side about one foot of water got in some of their underground tanks, which ATCO said impacted a couple hundred gallons sold.
“You come back here, they’ve got their tanks open,” Perez said. “You figure, it’s open, they should be fine.”
On Tuesday, the regular and midgrade gas options were signed off, preventing customers from using those — just premium.
“Especially right after the hurricane,” Perez said. “You’re stressed out as it is. We all had water damage, and you know, surges and things like that, and they have to come and have this on top of it.”
There is now a form that can be picked up at the station that customers can fill out if their car was damaged by the tainted gas.
“It’s frustrating,” Perez said. “To say the least.”
Ned Bowman is the Executive Director of the Florida Petroleum Marketing and Convenience Store Association.
“I think that the caps that are on the spill buckets on the top,” Bowman explained. “The seal was bad, so when you had the flooding, that seal should protect any water from going inside the tank.”
And that might not have been the only failure, according to Bowman.
“Usually, there’s a sensor that’s inside the tank for the gasoline, knowing the volume, and that should pick up the water also because of how much water was in there,” Bowman said. “So, something might have failed on that.”
Though it shouldn’t damage a car too much, getting the water out takes effort.
“You got to drop the tank, the gas tank in the back,” Bowman said. “You got to flush that out, you got to change all your filters, gasoline filters, and blow the lines out, and then put new gasoline in and start it up and blow it through.”
In order to fix the problem and get all these pumps fully operational again, ATCO said it has to drain all the underground tanks and refill them with proper gasoline, which should be done by the end of the week.