Spokane drivers accuse stations of pumping out water with fuel

One woman says her car started knocking and alerting her to problems five minutes after filling up.

SPOKANE, Wash. — KREM 2 is investigating problems at the pump after people started posting online about how they stopped at the gas station to fill up and ended up with water instead of gas.

One of those posters who shared her warning on Facebook is Corina Fletcher.

She says she stopped at the 76 at Wandermere two days after Christmas and left with about $800 in repairs.

“Just a typical day,” she says. “I filled up with about 11 gallons of gas and within the first five minutes after filling up my car went crazy.”

That was Dec 27. Almost immediately she said her car’s alerts and codes started going off. The car was knocking.

Thinking she needed an oil change, she took it to the shop.

“They plugged it in for me and told me there were 18 different misfiring, 18 different codes,” Fletcher says.

She later learned, while scrolling Facebook, she wasn’t alone in her car troubles.

“Someone had posted about the 76 at Wandermere having water in their gas tank and I immediately did some research of what that does to your car and figured out that’s exactly what happened,” she says.

“It was just a lot of water,” says Joe Crosby, shop foreman at Indian Trail Service Center, who diagnosed Fletcher’s troubles. “After hours and hours of diagnosis, just basically taking a fuel sample and finding contaminated fuel was the culprit.”

What they found in their tank was a clearly separated ratio of two-thirds gasoline and one-third water.

“This line separates the fuel from the water that was in her gas tank,” Crosby says, pointing out the clear delineation between water and gas.

The way a fuel injection system works, he says, the car would’ve been drawing in mostly water as it tried to power Fletcher’s van.

“She would’ve known almost instantly,” he says of the issue.

The tank had to be drained and treated with a substance that helps get the excess water out of the filters and system.

“I pulled 18.6 gallons out of the fuel tank so I’d say she was close to probably 35-45% water to gas ratio in that thing,” Crosby says.

The whole order, which left Fletcher without her van for eight days according to an invoice she provided, also left her with an $800 bill.

“It can get expensive,” Crosby says of repairs like this. “Depending on how long the water’s in there, it can ruin fuel injectors, it can ruin electric fuel pumps in the tank. Water corrodes.”

With chatter on social media, it appears Fletcher is far from the only one dealing with the issue.

Other people at other gas stations across Spokane say they had costly repairs from pumping water with their gas.

KREM 2 showed up in person to the 76 at Wandermere and were referred to the main office, which confirmed by phone water got into the premium fuel tank; a representative told us they’re paying for the tows and repairs for customers.

Fletcher says when she originally reported her issue to the gas station, they agreed to help her. Though when she called again days later, she was told because she used regular unleaded, she wouldn’t pay for her repair bill.

“She goes, ‘Ooh, yeah. It’s only our premium that had water in the gas tank.’ I said, ‘Yeah, well it wasn’t though because five minutes after I filled up with your fuel I had water in the gas tank,'” Fletcher recalled. “I asked her if they expect me to believe that’s a coincidence that there was water in my gas tank, water in your gas tanks, and it somehow didn’t get there because of your gas? She said, ‘Yep, sorry. Not my problem.’”

KREM 2 asked the gas station’s representative for an interview with someone to get more answers and clarity into the problem, including what help there is for customers who say they had issues with unleaded. We were told the representative would check and get back to us, though as of Wednesday night we haven’t heard back.

KREM 2 also contacted the Washington Department of Agriculture’s Weights and Measures division, which regulates fuel quality and inspects pumps. A representative there acknowledged she’d gotten our voicemail and email, but a request for an interview was also unanswered Wednesday.

For Fletcher, knowing she’s not the only one paying the price is inspiring her to keep fighting for accountability; she’s contacted the Attorney General with her complaint.

“I’m just hoping there’s something that can be done,” Fletcher says.

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