The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s (MDARD) Motor Fuels Quality Program is responsible for enforcing the requirements of The Motor Fuels Quality Act, P.A. 44 of 1984, as amended. In part, the Motor Fuels Quality Act prohibits more than 2 inches of water in underground storage tanks, the selling of gasoline that contains water, and selling gasoline that has an octane rating less than posted. Any retailer found selling gasoline that contains water or has an octane rating less than posted is subject to a Stop Sale order and civil fines. Fines for selling gasoline contaminated with water start at $500; plus the actual costs of the investigation.
In gasoline that does not contain ethanol, any water that finds its way into a storage tank drops to the bottom of the storage tank. If the water has to be removed from the gasoline storage tank, you simply pump out the water and then the firm is usually able to resume selling their gasoline without further complications. Almost all of the gasoline being sold in Michigan contains ten percent ethanol. When water enters these storage tanks, it bonds with the ethanol in the gasoline and, over short time, this combination of water/ethanol drops to the bottom of the storage tank. To remedy this situation, it is not as simple as pumping out the excessive water/alcohol from the bottom of the storage tank. When the water bonds with the ethanol and the ethanol/water mixture drops out, this action lowers the octane of the gasoline left in the storage tank. A scenario that MDARD has seen repeatedly is that a retailer detects 3 or 4 inches of water/alcohol at the bottom of his “regular” (87 octane) storage tank. The firm then has the 3 or 4 inches of water/alcohol pumped out thinking that is all that they have to do. Unfortunately, that is not all that has to be done. Instead of having 10 percent ethanol in the gasoline, the gasoline left in the storage tank will only have 4 or 5 percent ethanol. The loss of 4 or 5 percent ethanol will have lowered the octane of the “regular” gasoline by .8 to 1 octane. The 87 octane “regular” is now 86 octane gasoline.
In the scenario above, along with getting a fine for water in the gasoline, the firm received a fine for selling gasoline that was less than the posted octane. The retailer was fined a total of $1,500 for both a water and octane violation. In order to avoid a second fine for selling gasoline with a lower than posted octane rating, the MDARD recommends removing or “pumping out” the gasoline that is left after the water/ethanol mixture has been removed from the storage tank.
The best way to avoid receiving a fine for having water in your gasoline or for selling a gasoline that has substandard octane is to keep the water out of the storage tank!
The MDARD recommends the following simple steps to help motor fuel retailers avoid fines related to water in their storage tanks:
Make sure your electronic tank monitoring equipment is operating properly. You can verify that your electronic equipment is working properly by spot checking your storage tanks for water once or twice a week with a water detection paste (Sargel, Gasoila, Kolor Kut; etc.). If you detect any water it is very important that you have the water removed as soon as possible.
Ensure the rubber gaskets and locking caps to your underground storage tanks are in good shape and fully functional. MDARD field inspectors have observed broken caps and missing gaskets to be the cause of water getting into storage tanks on many occasions.
Closely monitor your storage tank water levels during periods of high rainfall or snowmelt. MDARD inspectors often observe violative levels of water in storage tanks during the spring thaw.
Questions may be directed to the Motor Fuels Quality Program at (517) 655-8202.