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Contaminated fuel traced to Indiana Township

Tribune-Review
| Thursday, May 6, 2004 12:00 a.m

A Marathon Ashland Petroleum spokeswoman said Tuesday that she had “no way of telling for sure” whether two local gasoline stations sold contaminated fuel that was traced to Indiana Township.

Linda Casey said she could not pinpoint which of Marathon’s 43 stations in Pennsylvania were affected by the contamination.

She said she also could not say whether other gas stations that bought fuel from Marathon were affected.

Investigators determined that lead in the fuel caused car problems for drivers in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.

That gasoline was traced to a processing facility operated by Kinder Morgan Energy Partners in the Indianola section of Indiana Township.

Casey said that the contaminated gasoline was sold in February and March and was not a current problem.

“It is very unlikely that anyone experiencing mechanical problems now is related to the contamination,” Casey said. “We have not found any contamination at any of our stations when we did a check at our stations.”

According to the Marathon Ashland Web site, C and T Mini Mart along Leechburg Road in New Kensington and Toy’s Market on East Brady Road in Kittanning sell Marathon fuel.

Neither of the store’s owners — Carol Spiering of C and T Mini Mart or Tom Toy of Toy’s Market — could be reached for comment Tuesday.

But Peggy Humphrey, a C and T employee, said she has not received any complaints regarding breakdowns or engines stalling because of gasoline sold there. An employee of Toy’s referred calls to the station’s fuel supplier, Schmitt Sales, of Buffalo, N.Y.

Phone messages left at Marathon distributors Schmitt Sales and Reed Oil, a New Castle-based supplier that sells fuel to C and T Mini Mart, went unreturned Tuesday.

Details also have surfaced involving mechanical problems in cars that refueled at a Sheetz store along Route 356 in Butler Township. The manager of that Sheetz, Lisa Fleischman, said that outlet did not sell contaminated gas or heard of any problems. A spokeswoman at the Sheetz headquarters in Altoona said she had not heard of any contamination at that Butler Township station.

Kinder Morgan spokesman Rick Rainey said the fuel that left Indiana Township met federal guidelines.

The company operates a transmix facility there. Transmix is the mixing of two fuels in pipelines. It is unusable. But transmix can be processed into usable fuel, a procedure that Rainey said oil companies ask Kinder Morgan to perform.

“We’re only involved in the processing phase,” Rainey said. “After we had done our testing, (the fuel) was within guidelines of (the Environmental Protection Agency) and certainly could have been used for the consumer.”

Casey, however, said she believed the lead contaminant was so tiny that it slipped through Kinder Morgan’s filtration system.

She said that contaminated fuel formed a gray-white particle that clogged vehicles’ fuel systems.

If customers can prove that contaminated fuel bought at a Marathon station caused their vehicles’ problems, Casey said, Marathon will reimburse them for their repairs.

Casey said that Marathon has settled with about 100 customers.

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