Customer: Station added water to gas
By: CHARLES WINOKOOR, Business Writer
RAYNHAM - An independent gas station on Route 138 has closed down after at least one customer said it resorted to adding its own special fuel additive: Water.
The Raynham United station at 593 Broadway stopped selling gas shortly before noon yesterday after a local woman who had just gassed up couldn't get her car to start again.
Erica Rotondo of Taunton said it was 11 a.m. when her 2004 Pontiac Vibe briefly vibrated, and then conked out for good - right after she finished pumping in $15 worth of gas.
Rotondo, 22, said the station manager, a man in his 20s, told her the station had been having problems with water in its gas supply during the past two weeks, and that a company representative was on the way to test for water contamination.
But shortly before noon the alleged manager had locked up and left, leaving her to wait until 2:30 p.m. for a AAA tow to her Pontiac dealership in East Providence.
Before that, while she and the 10-month-old baby girl she was baby-sitting waited, she said witnessed two other customers buy gas and manage to drive back onto Route 138.
"I couldn't believe he (the station attendant) let them go after buying gas," Rotondo said.
"I hope they stay closed," she added.
Rotondo's compact SUV spent the night at the Pontiac dealership. The estimate she got was a minimum of $500 to have the tank drained and engine fixed.
Raynham United is listed as being owned by C.K. Smith of Worcester, a company that owns and operates independent gas stations throughout Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
Calls to the company were not returned.
Rotondo's experience was not an isolated incident. Taunton resident Linda Swain said she spent $50 on gas for her Jeep Cherokee early Saturday morning.
"It was $2.81 a gallon - I was happy to get it," Swain said.
She made it as far as a nearby Dunkin' Donuts, which also happens to be located next to an Exxon gas station, before stalling out.
After three hours at the Exxon station her car was towed back to her house where one of her sons, a mechanic, worked on it to no avail. She then had it towed to Big Al's Nappa Auto Care Center where on Monday it was discovered water was the culprit.
"He told me the gas in my tank was full of contaminants," said Swain.
The cost to drain and flush the tank was $130, but she was told her engine could also be damaged as a result.
Swain, 58, had gotten an early start Saturday to drive to Tufts New England Medical Center in Boston to pick up her husband, Mike, who had recently undergone quadruple bypass surgery.
She said when she went back to the station Monday to complain the teenage girl attendant on duty said her car had been the sixth that afternoon to stall out after getting gas.
Swain said the girl told her she had seen one customer's car come to a stop right on busy Route 138. Finally, she apparently had had enough.
"She said, 'I don't want to do this anymore ... and began to warn people," said Swain.
But, unfortunately, Swain said, the girl's candor went largely unappreciated and some of those potential customers peeled out in anger, creating sparks in the process.
"Please call the fire department - I'm scared,'" the girl said, according to Swain.
Ã‚Â©The Taunton Gazette 2005