USA GAS MART Station is back in business after fix



The insurance company said their investigation is still pending.
By LEONARD CRIST
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The gas station responsible for disabling several vehicles recently because of bad gasoline has fixed the problem, a store manager said, but the station's insurance company has yet to pay out any claims.
About seven vehicles were disabled Aug. 1 after filling up at USA Gas Mart, 667 S. Meridian Road. One man, Richard Royster of Westchester, N.Y., was stranded in Youngstown for several days after bad gas left his van inoperable.
USA Gas Mart had, before the bad gas incident, moved and replaced the sump pump that draws gas from the underground tanks, said Peter Chace of the Ohio Department of Commerce's Bureau of Underground Storage Tank Regulations.
The pump ended up being installed too low in the ground, which allowed it to suction the sludge and impurities that gather near the bottom of all underground gas tanks. This is what caused the problem, Chace said. An inspection has been done and the pump was moved higher, fixing the problem.
Amy Velazquez, a store manager there, said heavy rain the night before contributed to the problem. The inspection revealed no leaks or cracks in the tanks, she said.
The store closed after learning there was a problem and didn't begin selling gas again until last Thursday, Velazquez said.
New filters added
She said in addition to moving the pump higher, the pumps have been fitted with new filters to prevent problems in the future. The old filters were designed to catch only dirt; the new filters are designed to catch water.
"It could never happen to us again. These new filters, they're top of the line. ... If anything like this happens again and water or rain or anything goes into there, our pumps will automatically shut down," Velazquez said.
She said their insurance company, Grange Insurance, left business cards at the gas station for any customers with problems or questions.
But according to Grange, no money has been disbursed to affected customers yet.
"The investigation is still pending at this point," said William M. Hegarty, the claims representative handling the case.
Velazquez said the gas station has suffered in the aftermath of the incident. They were selling 5,000 gallons each day; now they are selling only 1,000.
"We're struggling now to keep it open because we're hardly making any kind of money," she said.
She said the gas station wanted to apologize for all the problems the bad gas caused and hoped customers' trust could be restored.
"We're so sorry for all the inconvenience we've caused everybody," she said. "We want everybody to trust us. ... We hope that everybody comes back."
lcrist@vindy.com

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