I-Team: Lack of fuel quality testing in Ohio leaves drivers in the dark about what’s in their tanks

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

The state of Ohio does not have any gas quality laws in place in an effort to make sure that gas that is being put into our vehicles is of the best quality. News Center 7's John Bedell reports.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

More and more Miami Valley drivers are finding themselves victims of what some call a bad gas loophole.

News Center 7’s I-Team discovered how some Ohio communities have taken action as we took a look at the lack of fuel protection law that most other states have.

After bad gasoline ended up in several drivers’ tanks last month, the lack of a fuel quality testing law in Ohio is now fresh on many people’s minds.

Most of us expect regular fill ups to never result in costly damage to our vehicles, like what we saw last month.

But even before January, drivers in the Miami Valley have reported issues with bad gas.

>> RELATED: Customers find diesel in gas tanks after visiting Enon station; some face hefty damages

Last April,  Larry Hess filled up his diesel truck at a Huber Heights gas station.

Less than 70 miles later, his check engine light came on for water in his fuel system.

He still has some of what the dealership drained from his tank.

“The diesel fuel here on top is kind of yellowish,” he described. “That's contaminated diesel fuel because it's normally a light green. What the stuff is on the bottom, the dark brown stuff, we have no idea.”

Bad gas cost Shaun Desmarais a lot of money.

“They gave us the initial quote; they said probably four to five grand,” he said of the repairs.

He ended up with diesel in his gas tank when he filled up at a Speedway in Enon last month.

Speedway said a delivery mix-up meant gasoline shipments to that station and three others last month may have been contaminated with diesel.
The service manager at Wagner Subaru in Fairborn showed News Center 7 what they pulled from a car's fuel system right after that driver filled up at the Enon Speedway after the mix-up.

“It’s almost got like a Mountain Dew look to it,” said Wayne Wilson. “If I had to guess, I’d say it’s probably 70% diesel and 30% gas.”

Ohio is one of three states that does not have statewide fuel quality testing.

That means there’s no way to tell there’s a problem until it’s too late.

Here in Ohio, most county auditor's offices are only allowed to test for the quantity of gas — are the pump dispensing true gallons when  you fill up? But most of those same inspectors cannot test for the quality of what's going in your in tank.
Only Summit County tests fuel quality in Ohio.

>> RELATED: One county in Ohio tests for bad gas. What do they do?

A unique government structure there gives county inspectors the power to test gas on their own. They don’t need a state law to allow it.

Summit County’s fiscal office told the I-Team that they test about 178 stations every year.

Over the last eight years, they’ve received 15 formal complaints from drivers about bad gas.

The office told News Center 7 that they haven’t uncovered any bad gas with the program in the last nine years, but Summit County feels the real consumer protection is the program prevents haulers from unloading gas that wouldn’t pass inspection.

“Other states in the union has quality programs and Ohio being one that doesn’t,” said Montgomery County Auditor Karl Keith. “It seems like there’s something we’re missing.”

Here in Dayton, Keith’s office tests 7,000 pumps every year.

But again, they can’t test gas quality. They can only check if you get a gallon when you pump a gallon.

“They could do some of these simple quality tests,” said Keith. “It just seems like a thing that we should be doing.”

>> RELATED: After bad gas at Speedway, auditor says it’s time for Ohio to test fuel quality

Ohio lawmakers have tried to pass a statewide fuel testing law before, but those efforts have stalled at the Statehouse.

State Rep. George Lang, West Chester, is trying to restart that work.

He told the I-Team he’ll introduce a bipartisan bill in the next 60 days to give every county the authority to test gas quality.

“I think the biggest gander is the financial devastation,” he said. “Especially if you’ve got someone that’s not financially well off. I mean, $1,500 is a lot of money to some people, and $5,000 is enough to devastate some people.”

As someone who’s felt that financial impact, News Center 7’s John Bedell asked Hess about the bill.

>> RELATED: 4 Speedway stations received regular gas possibly contaminated with diesel

“I’d sign up for it,” he said. “Especially given my experience.”

But until the law changes, Hess and other drivers will have to continue to wonder how much bad gas could cost them.

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