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Pumping bad fuel? Contact 6 investigates contaminated gasoline

MILWAUKEE — If a vehicle sputters, stalls or won't start, it's possible the tank may have been filled with bad gasoline.

It's a situation Jill Stalter of Milwaukee knows all too well.

One morning in October of 2016, Stalter climbed into her Jeep to hit the road, but she quickly realized she wasn't going anywhere.

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Jill Stalter

"Every time you would turn the key it would run for five seconds and then it would just die," Stalter recalled.

Stalter said before that moment, her car had been running perfectly.

"I've driven this Jeep for four years. I know when there is one thing out of place on it," she said.

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Amstar gas station in Milwaukee where Jill Stalter filled her vehicle with contaminated fuel.

Stalter suspected she knew the cause of the issues with her Jeep. The night before, she bought gas from the Amstar station at 91st and Hampton in Milwaukee.

Stalter thought the fuel she pumped into her vehicle was bad.

"Everybody's like, 'She's a woman. She doesn't know what she's talking about. There's something wrong with her Jeep? Oh, she doesn't know.' I know what's wrong with my Jeep," Stalter said.

badfuel3Staler submitted a complaint to the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection's Weights and Measures Bureau. After testing, it turned out her suspicion about why she had issues with her car was correct.

A few days later, a test found one problem with one of the tanks.

According to a letter Stalter received from DATCP, there were "signs of water contamination."

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"Thank God they went. They tested it — sent me a report. They have proof there is water in the fuel," Stalter said.

According to state records, Stalter's complaint was one of two filed against that Amstar gas station. Overall, her complaint is one of 46 filed against all gas stations in southeastern Wisconsin over the last two years.

When a person files a compliant, the state follows up.

It found that 24 of the 46 complaints it received were legitimate.

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Weights and Measures Inspector Joel Kohlman conducts conducts a field test at an Oak Creek gas station to check for contaminated fuel.

FOX6's Contact 6 joined Weights and Measures inspector Joel Kohlman to see how gasoline is tested for contamination. The fuel gets tested on location and at a laboratory in Madison.

For the field test, Kohlman mixed fuel with water to measure the amount of ethanol. After that, he spread a water indicating paste on a stick and lowered the stick into a gas tank. If the fuel was not contaminated with water, the color would not change. If water was detected, it would be indicated on the stick.

"As soon as it comes in contact with water, it turns purple," Kohlman explained.

In addition, Kohlman inspected the color of the gas. It should be clear and bright with no signs of haziness.

The test Contact 6 witnessed at a gas station in Oak Creek showed no signs of water contamination.

Kohlman said in his experience, gas is not contaminated intentionally. He said water can sometimes seep into the supply through a loose seal or cracked tanks or piping.

"The old wives tale of, 'They're watering down their gas.' It just doesn't happen," Kohlman said.

Kohlman said it's very expensive for a gas station to have contaminated fuel because the station ends up disposing thousands of gallons of fuel. In addition, they oftentimes have to pay to repair the issue causing the contamination.

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Weights and Measures stick that informs consumers about the last time a fuel pump was inspected.

If you want to know the last time a pump you're getting gas from has been inspected, look for a sticker from Weights and Measures. The sticker should show an inspection sometime within the last 12 to 18 months.

If you notice a problem, there's a number on the sticker to report the issue.

Statler spoke up and she was reimbursed by the gas station's insurance. She urges others to speak up too.

"Make a call. Contact 'em, email -- take action and stand up for your rights," Stalter advised.

According the state records, there aren't any repeat fuel contamination offenders in southeastern Wisconsin. One station had the most complaints by far with 14. It was the Uncle Buck's gas station in Delavan. In that case, there was a fuel mix up about a year ago. The state says everyone was paid back.

1 Comment

  • Jim

    She got lucky it could have been a fuel pump but know fuel station owners in Milwaukee well enough if you have an issue its your fault never theirs.

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