Thursday, May 20, 2004

Tainted gasoline traced to Marathon

By Joe Biesk
The Associated Press

FRANKFORT - Gasoline tainted with elemental sulfur was responsible for damaging hundreds of fuel sensors in vehicles around the Louisville area, officials announced Wednesday.

Marathon Ashland Petroleum acknowledged it sent out a batch of gasoline containing "trace amounts" of elemental sulfur. It was enough to damage some cars' gas gauges, the company said in a statement.

"Although the company says that the gas passed industry standards, the sulfur is known to affect gas gauge readings," Kentucky Attorney General Greg Stumbo said, "creating the exact problem that consumers in Louisville faced when the gas gauge says there's gas in the tank, but the car is on empty."

The gas has been sold since May 3 in Jefferson, Oldham and Bullitt counties in Kentucky, and in Floyd and Clark counties in Indiana. Officials believe only regular and mid-grade gasoline were affected.

However, they were not sure which stations received the gas and were still investigating, said Linda Casey, a Marathon Ashland Petroleum spokeswoman. The company also sells its gasoline at wholesale, Casey said.

The tainted gasoline came out of the company's Kramer's Lane Distribution Terminal in Louisville. The problem stemmed from contaminated tanks, Casey said.

"We will return the product to the refinery and re-refine it," she said.

Vehicles that run the gas are susceptible only to gas gauge problems and not engine damage, Casey said. Customers whose vehicles were damaged from the gas can get reimbursed, Casey said.

The company has set up a number for people to call for reimbursement, 1-888-263-3778.

The average cost of fixing the problem is about $400 a vehicle, she said.

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