State inspection would not have prevented contaminated gas problem

Posted at: 10/11/2013 9:00 PM
Updated at: 10/11/2013 9:42 PM
By: Ryan Luby, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Staff at several agencies in charge of regulating refineries in New Mexico, and the gasoline they produce, said routine inspection would not have identified a leak in a storage tank at Western Refining’s facility in Gallup.

The company claimed responsibility for selling diluted gasoline to more than 150 customers in New Mexico, Colorado, and Arizona this week.

A company spokesperson confirmed that a gasket leak atop a tank allowed water to mix with the gasoline.

Regulators at the Department of Agriculture, which measure gas quality, said Western Refining identified the contaminated gas problem before the department needed to get involved.

Staff at the Environment Department said they did not need to get involved since the leak was within the storage tank and not outside of it.

Each department said its Western Refining’s responsibility to take care of maintaining the integrity of its own tanks.

Western Refining has received more than 200 complaint calls on its claims line since the contamination problem surfaced on Tuesday, according to company spokesperson Gary Hanson.

Hanson said that roughly 40 of those complaints were from people who had not actually purchased contaminated gas from the company's stations.

He said Western Refining did a full inspection of the Gallup facility about nine months ago.

“It's what we call in the industry a turnaround, and that's where we go through and check every pipe, every seal, every pipe joint we have to make sure that everything is in proper working order.  If it's not, we change it out -- it's like a major overhaul of a piece of equipment,” Hanson said.

He said it’s too early to know exactly what caused the affected tank’s gasket to leak.

“You can put in all the processes you want, and all the procedures, and make sure that you're operating safely, and that all of your equipment is in proper operating form, but from time to time there will be something like this that pops up,” he said.

For a full list of stations that received the contaminated gasoline, visit

4 On Your Side is not aware of contamination at any other gas station or gas station chain.