Florida officials warn of fuel contamination as Italia approaches

Floridians are facing “spreadable” fuel pollution along the state’s Gulf Coast that could damage vehicles and residents could face evacuation orders as Tropical Storm Idalia approaches, state officials said, a day after the governor declared a state of emergency for the storm.

Fuel purchased after 10 a.m. Saturday at stations at the Port of Tampa served by Citco has a strong chance of contamination. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said Sunday.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said at a press conference Sunday that the contamination was caused by accidentally mixing diesel and gasoline.

“It’s basically human error,” he said. “They’re putting diesel in tanks that should be regular gas.”

The state’s agriculture department has listed around 30 gas stations as vulnerable, while warning that gasoline contaminated with diesel can damage the engine or affect a car’s drivability.

In many cases, drivers can only go a few miles before the engine shuts down, which can create a dangerous situation for those trying to get out.

Officials have warned that evacuation notices could come as Tropical Storm Italia is expected to strengthen. Florida Division of Emergency Management Told the residents If an emergency evacuation order is issued, their gas tanks must be half full.

Mr. DeSantis said the contamination “complicates” matters if an evacuation is necessary, but added that the state has launched an investigation into what happened.

“You’re going to have people who could be stranded on the side of the road,” he said Sunday. “I mean, if you fill your tank with diesel and start driving it, it’s not going to end well.”

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Stations affected by the contamination have been asked to stop selling gas until they replace the contaminated fuel and clean the tanks.

The state agriculture department did not immediately respond to questions about how many stations have completed these measures. Citco did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Port of Tampa Bay spokeswoman Lisa Wolf-Sasson said the port is aware of contamination at the Citco fuel terminal, but the terminal is not affiliated with the port and the company’s operations are not under the authority or oversight of the port.

“The port is in contact with our five partner fuel terminal operators and has been assured of their readiness to provide fuel and support as Tropical Storm Italia moves closer to our region,” he said.

Both gasoline and diesel come from crude oil, but they are chemically different National Motorists AssociationAnd when the two mix it harms the engine.

The agency advises drivers not to start their engines and have the tank flushed by a mechanic.

Kevin Guthrie, executive director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, said Sunday that the agency is working to ensure the contamination is quickly remedied.

State officials are “coordinating with everyone from petroleum retailers to ports to ensure that the disruption is not widespread or prolonged and that residents have uninterrupted access to fuel,” Mr. Guthrie said.

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