Hammond woman says gas damaged car prior to recall

2012-08-25T19:00:00Z 2012-08-29T19:20:04Z Hammond woman says gas damaged car prior to recallBy Bowdeya Tweh bowdeya.tweh@nwi.com, (219) 933-3316 nwitimes.com

Seretha Harvey, of Hammond, thought she was having tough luck with her vehicle when it started to "act funny" in early July.

She said in trips over a period of several days, her car would rattle heavily for minutes before subsiding. But in one commute on U.S. 12/20 in Gary, she said the vehicle suddenly lost its ability to accelerate and stalled.

By the time the repairs on her 1999 Chrysler LHS were complete July 30, it had a new fuel pump, spark plugs, timing belt and camshaft position sensor in addition to a new tank of gas.

The out-of-pocket cost for her was $850 for the vehicle tow, parts, repairs and labor. The repair receipt had the comment, "vehicle also had contaminated gas," which puzzled her at the time but she accepted it. Now she wonders whether problems with the region's gasoline supply began prior to BP's recall last week.

"Before, there was no reason to think about the gas," said Harvey, who she said she filled her tank at a Luke Oil-operated BP station in Hobart a few days after July 4.

In interviews, dozens of people told The Times the gasoline recall has shaken their confidence in the seemingly routine task of fueling their vehicles. Many, including Harvey, also say the recall damage extends beyond vehicle repairs.


BP says it's 'going to make good'

Without commenting specifically about Harvey's case, BP spokesman Scott Dean said the company will investigate any incident or claim of vehicle damage that happened outside of the week starting Aug. 13. Dean said the company's customer relations department is equipped to deal with issues related to concerns about fuel quality.

Last week, BP said at least 2.1 million gallons of gasoline were distributed from its Whiting storage terminal containing a higher-than-normal volume of polymeric residue. The off-specification product reached three states and as of Friday, 16,000 people reached BP asking questions about the recall or made claims.

"We're going to make good on this situation to our customers and resellers," Dean said. "We depend on our resellers. We have a lot of talented distributors. We're going to do the right thing by motorists that are affected."

Luke Oil Vice President Tom Collins II said he isn't aware of any other customers reporting problems with gasoline outside of BP's stated recall window. He said a handful of complaints are made to the company each month, but often they are the result of other vehicle maintenance issues.

Dean said the company is trying to expedite the claims process but admitted some would receive help faster than others. The easiest claims to process will be those where receipts and itemized repair bills are available.

"(But) we will work with any customer," Dean said.

BP said Friday that regular gasoline supplied to retailers in Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin is within normal specifications and is available for purchase.

As for the off-specification product, Dean said the company believes each station and distributor is cooperating with the recall, which is complicated. Fuel that needs to be recovered will be sent to the terminal and then to the BP Whiting Refinery for reprocessing since the polymeric residue can be removed.

Collins said higher-volume stations, such as the one in Hobart that Harvey visited, sells about 12,750 gallons of gasoline a day. He said many busier gas stations sold out of the off-specification product while other lower-volume stations likely had to empty their tanks.


The aftermath

In the aftermath of trying to get her car fixed, Harvey said she lost both of her jobs, including one as a delivery driver. She said the only reason she was able to get her vehicle fixed was because family members helped to foot half the repair bills.

"Now I have to second-guess whether or not is this person's gas gonna contaminate my car (and mess up) my livelihood," Harvey said.

Harvey said she often gets her gas from the Hobart station and never has had an issue prior to last month. However, she said for future gasoline purchases, she will use mid-grade gasoline to be safe.

She also plans on calling customer service lines for BP and Luke Oil in the coming days.

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