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Water found in gas at Overland Park station causes damage to some drivers’ cars

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- A problem at the pump has left drivers stranded and state inspectors focused on a Johnson County gas station.

According to officials with the Kansas Department of Agriculture's Weights and Measures Division, the gas at Phillips 66 Food Mart at 75th and Metcalf in Overland Park had water in it.

Now, the gas station isn't allowed to sell gas until all the gas is removed and the lines are purged.

A spokesperson for the state agency says inspectors received a complaint and went to the Phillips 66 on Tuesday. The pumps were already marked out of service by the owner.

The maximum acceptable level of water in a gas source tank is 1 inch. An inspector found 4.5 inches of water in one tank and 9.5 inches in the other at the Overland Park location.

The gas station's owner, Mayan Saxena, said the water got into his underground source tanks during a construction accident. Crews are working on a project adjacent to his property, and workers accidentally drilled into a valve/tube part of the tank.

The construction company's owner says the valve wasn't detectable until it was too late.

"I've had this station for about 10 years, and this is the first time this has happened," Saxena said. "We've got a lot of regular customers. They come in all the time, and I feel bad for them. And we were trying to see what we could do. We had some mad customers, and I was trying my best to work with them."

Saxena said it's not clear yet how many people purchased the water-gas blend.

Gas quality is regulated by the Kansas Department of Agriculture's Weights and Measures Division. Every gas station in the Sunflower State is inspected once every 18 months. If the agency receives a complaint, an inspector will check that specific issue.

A spokesperson says the gas station had two complaints in the last decade, but they didn't have to do with water in the gas. The last inspection at the gas station was in January, with a follow up in February. There wasn't any gas in the water detected at that time.

Lacey Ellis says she bought the water-gas blend on Monday.

"The gas was going so slow. I've never seen a gas pump go that slow in my life," Ellis said.

She didn't even fill up her whole tank and drove about a mile home. But that partial tank of watery gas was enough to do some damage.

"The very next morning the car wouldn't start," Ellisa said. "It made this terrible clicking sound, and we were like, 'Maybe it's the battery.' We were really weren't sure what it was, and we walked to school that morning."

Then, she started seeing warnings on her Nextdoor page about gas contaminated with water at the station, which caused problems for other drivers. FOX4 spoke to drivers who bought gas at the Phillips 66, who said they broke down shortly after their purchases.

One woman said Firestone quoted her $1,300 for repairs.

Ellis doesn't know how badly her car is damaged yet. It's in her garage waiting to be towed. But there could be a lot of work in store for people like her who fueled up at the Overland Park gas station.

KC Complete Auto Service employee Zach Thomson said if there's enough water in the gas, your engine could be in trouble.

"If you don't know, once the water goes through the line to the engine, it can misfire, it can run a little bit rough," Thomson said. "It depends how much is in there. Obviously if there's a really high ratio of water, you're going to get quite a bit more issues. Once it gets to the engine, there's not enough fuel to keep it running properly. Water isn't combustible."

The owner of the construction company and the owner of the gas station said they're working together with both of their insurance providers to take care of repairs for people who pumped the bad gas.

A spokesperson for The Hartford, which provides insurance for Saxena's business, sent FOX4 the following statement:

“Delivering superior customer service is a top priority for us. We work closely with our customers to address claims when coverage applies under the terms of their policy. However, we take the privacy of our customers' information seriously, and, as a practice, we do not discuss specifics of individual claims.”

The Weights and Measures Division doesn't require businesses to have sensors or alarms on pumps to detect high water levels.

The gas station's owner has 30 days to fix the issue, and then the state will conduct another inspection. He said the tank is already fixed, and now he's working on purging the lines and removing about 7,000 gallons of gas from the tank.

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