Drivers say watered down gasoline caused damage to their vehicles

Watch video above: Drivers say watered down gasoline caused damage to their vehicles. Sean O’Shea reports. 

Consumers who bought premium fuel at a gasoline station in Leslieville in March and April were forced to pay for expensive repairs after filling up.  The reason? They say the gasoline was watered down.

“The whole car was shaking and sputtering, it was scary,” said Julie Whitfield, who paid $110 earlier in April to put premium fuel in her 2002 Honda Odyssey. When she turned the ignition to leave the Neon station at 1200 Queen Street East, the car wouldn`t work. The car had to be towed.

Whitfield later paid a dealer $1,450 to repair and restore the vehicle to working order. Mechanics who inspected the van said they found a significant amount of water in her tank, she said.

San San Maw says she had a similar experience on March 30. She says seven minutes after an attendant pumped premium fuel into her 2006 Audi A3, it broke down.

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“I could have been killed,” she told Global News, thankful her breakdown didn’t happen on the highway.

Her repair bill was $1,065. Audi mechanics told Maw the fuel was so diluted, they couldn’t ignite a piece of paper soaked in the gasoline mixture when they tried, she said.

Following the complaints on April 11, the Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA) performed a “water detection test on the premium tank and no water was present,” wrote Wilson Lee, the TSSA’s director of stakeholder relations, responding to questions from Global News.

While no water was found in the tanks, according to the TSSA, an inspector issued an order that the station replace all of the fill pipe spill containers by June 22. The containers are designed to contain spills that occur when the “the delivery hose is disconnected from the fill pipe,” Lee wrote.

The station has a history of safety issues dating back to the early 1990s, when it was branded (but not owned by) Pioneer but run by the same operator, Keung Ho.

On May 15, 1992 an inspector’s report showed a “spill containment fill box…was not installed properly allowing rain water to enter the tank.” The same year, a letter from Pioneer noted “17,641 litres” of fuel was unaccounted for in a 12 week period.  On October 5, 2012 a TSSA report said “pump spill containments do not appear to be leak tight.” Ho was ordered to make repairs.

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At least a dozen consumers have claimed to have had engine problems related to fuel issues at the station over the last few years. Several told Global News the company was unresponsive to pleas for compensation.

A woman who refused to give her name but identified herself as the station’s owner called police when a Global News crew asked for an explanation at the station Monday

“I pay money, this is a big trouble, you know. Do you understand?” the woman said, before driving off in her late-model SUV. She said if authorities had found water in her tanks, she would be shut down and insisted the fuel was “fine.”