Bad fuel leaves drivers in debt, leads Mo. state inspector to close Northland gas station

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The state has shut down pumps at a Northland gas station after consumers say mechanics found water in their fuel tanks. Drivers say they're hundred of dollars in debt after filling up at the KCI Kwik Shoppe in Ferrelview, just north of the river.

The state confirms water was found in the station's in-ground fuel storage tanks following heavy rain and storms earlier this week.

Barry Bartlett has had several customers come to the Jack Miller Kia Service Center this week with the same problem: water in their fuel. He held up bottles filled with samples from customers' gas tanks.

"The whole bottom half of it is actually water, the top half is fuel." Bartlett said, "Some of the vehicles won't run. We had one that was towed in here because it had so much water in it."

Barlett blames recent heavy rains.

"Because you have in-ground fuel tanks, the heavy rain will basically overload the vent system and allow water in," he explained.

The Missouri Department of Agriculture has shut down pumps at the KCI Kwik Shoppe. The state says an inch of water was found in an inspector's samples from that station. The state issued a stop sale on regular and mid-grade products Thursday.

Phil Gilliam bought gas at the KCI Kwik Shoppe last Saturday. He had his car towed to the Kia Service Center and said he's been trying to reach the gas station owner all week. When he asked the owner for the gas station's insurance information.

Gilliam said he was told: "He said call whoever you want. Call the media, call your lawyer, I don't care. So I did."

Gilliam called FOX 4's Megan Dillard. FOX 4 had our cameras rolling when he called the owner again. This time, the owner answered and gave Gilliam the information he asked for. He's scheduled to get payment for the damage to this car.

While Gilliam's issue is set to be resolved, there might still be drivers dealing with the same issue. Bartlett continued, "This is actually the third case we've had, and in speaking with one of the customers, he said there were 18 people he was aware of that were involved."

Here is the response FOX 4 received Friday from the Missouri Department of Agriculture:

Has the state closed down service at Ferrelview KCI Kwik Shop (218 1st Street, Ferrelview, MO)?

"Yes. A state inspector issued a stop sale on both the regular and mid-grade products at this location on June 2, 2016."

How much water?

"An inch of water was found in the regular unleaded storage tank and samples obtained by the state inspector were cloudy indicating the presence of water. The mid-grade dispenser was ordered off sale because this product is a blend of premium and regular unleaded."

How many pumps?

"All regular and mid-grade products were ordered off sale from all dispensers at the time of inspection."

How does the state test for water in fuel?

"A state inspector places a measuring stick with water finding paste into a storage tank. If water is present on the tank bottom the paste will turn color. Fuel samples obtained by the inspector will then be shipped to the fuel quality laboratory in Jefferson City, Missouri and analyzed to determine the amount of water in the sample or samples."

What are the next steps for the gas station owner to re-open service?

"The inspector’s stop sale notice directed the station to identify the source of water contamination and repair, to remove the water and/or sediment from the storage tank, remove all gasoline from storage tank and replace with fresh product, purge new product through all dispensers into separate containers until product flows clear, install new 10 micron or smaller pump filters, correct product labeling after product has been replaced to reflect the correct product and octane on each dispenser, and call the fuel quality program when these items are completed."

How many other stations in the Kansas City metro area have had pumps closed due to water in the fuel after last week's heavy storms?

"The fuel quality program has issued one stop sale for water since last week in the Kansas City metro area. This was issued to the KCI Kwik Shoppe on June 2, 2016."

Is this a problem the state sees frequently after big storms?

"If problems with fuel dispensing equipment exist, water can enter these systems and consumer vehicles. It is not uncommon after large storms or rains to receive a few complaints statewide."

Are there any preventive measures station owners can take?

"Station owners are encouraged to perform routine maintenance on their dispensing systems to ensure they meet all state and federal requirements. Missouri Department of Agriculture inspectors inspect service stations to ensure meter accuracy, safety from fire and explosion, labeling, and fuel quality requirements are met."

Where can we send people who are concerned they've been given water in their fuel?

"Consumers can contact the Missouri Department of Agriculture Fuel Quality Program at 573-751-2922, email us, or complete a consumer complaint form"