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Florida officials warned of a “potentially widespread” fuel spill across the state’s Gulf Coast, which could damage car engines and increase the likelihood of stranded drivers as Tropical Storm Idalia approaches.
Fuel purchased after 10 a.m. Saturday at more than two dozen Citgo-supplied gas stations is at high risk of being contaminated through “human error,” the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said in a warning Sunday afternoon .
The contamination came after workers at Citgo, a company that supplies fuel to the Tampa area, accidentally swapped diesel and gasoline during a delivery to gas stations on Saturday. Citgo released a list of the 29 gas stations believed to have received the contaminated fuel, including some as far south as Fort Myers and as far north as Brooksville.
Contaminated gasoline and diesel “can cause engine damage or impair functionality” and lead to vehicle breakdowns, the warning said. Generators used during storm-related power outages could also be affected.
In the warning, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said it has asked affected gas stations to stop selling gas until all contaminated fuel is replaced and the tanks are cleaned. The agency and Citgo did not immediately respond to a request Sunday night.
Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) told residents of certain parts of Florida on Aug. 27 to expect power outages once Tropical Storm Idalia makes landfall. (Video: Reuters)
The announcement came after Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) declared a state of emergency as the state braces for Tropical Storm Idalia, which forecasters predict will develop into a powerful hurricane and make landfall Tuesday through Wednesday.
Hurricane Warning issued for Florida Gulf Coast as Idalia gains strength
“People may just be stuck on the side of the road. I mean, if you fill up your diesel tank and then start driving, it’s not going to end well. So that’s a concern,” DeSantis said at a news conference Sunday afternoon.
He said authorities would release a list of affected gas stations so anyone who filled up there knows “that they probably don’t want to drive their car.” Citgo said anyone who fears being impacted can file a lawsuit on its website.
The state generally advises residents to keep gas tanks at least half full during hurricane season to avoid long lines and bottlenecks during evacuations.
The state government has launched a fuel contamination investigation, DeSantis said.
State authorities have waived size, weight and hour limits on tanker trucks in order to “bring resources into the state as quickly and efficiently as possible,” Kevin Guthrie, executive director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, said along with DeSantis at the press conference .
Guthrie added that they are also coordinating with petroleum traders, ports and all other stakeholders to “ensure this disruption does not become widespread and residents have smooth access to fuel”.
A spokeswoman for Port Tampa Bay, where the contaminated fuel was distributed, clarified that Citgo’s operations “are not under the jurisdiction or oversight of the port,” although some of its fuel terminals are physically located in the port.
The port is in contact with five partner fuel terminal operators and has been “assured that they stand ready to deliver fuel and support consumers despite the storm,” Port Tampa Bay spokeswoman Lisa Wolf-Chason said in an email .