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Bad gas leaves cars high and dry

By Dale Rodebaugh Herald staff writer

A spokesman for Western Refining said Saturday it was news to him that a Durango woman experienced car trouble resulting from diesel-contaminated gasoline bought at a Giant convenience store.

Speaking by telephone from Texas, Gary Hanson of Western Refining confirmed that several loads of gasoline contaminated with water inadvertently went to Giant stores in Durango and Cortez, as well as two Arizona cities. But, “this is the first I’ve heard of diesel,” he said. “This is quite different from the situation in all the other places.”

In an Associated Press story Friday, Hanson was quoted as saying a defective gasket at a New Mexico refinery allowed water to leak into a gasoline storage tank near Gallup. The article said a number of motorists in the Albuquerque area had to have their vehicles repaired when they wouldn’t start or conked out while being driven.

Durangoan Darby Beas filled her car’s tank with what she assumed was unleaded gasoline at the Giant convenience store on U.S. Highway 160 west.

She then drove three miles to Centennial Plaza on an errand, she said. When she tried to start the car a few minutes later, the motor wouldn’t turn over.

Beas had her car towed to Brittain’s Highland Service, where Ben Brittain said the fuel in Beas’ vehicle was 90 percent diesel and 10 percent gasoline. The tank had to be drained and cleaned, Brittain said.

Brittain said he’d received calls from two other people asking for a price quote for the same repair. They apparently knew what their problem was, he said.

Beas said she was out $80 for the tow truck and $160 for the work at Brittain’s.

The manager of the Giant store on U.S. Highway 160 west declined to comment. She referred questions to Hanson.

Hanson said Western Refining has a toll-free number, (877) 511-1012, to handle claims by drivers whose vehicles were incapacitated by contaminated fuel.

The company will pay for repairs if the driver documents the purchase of fuel and the cost of damage, Hanson said.

“Absolutely, we’ll take care of this,” Hanson said. “People rely on their auto, and if it’s not working, it’s an undue burden on everyone.”

daler@durangoherald.com

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