Company testing AAFES supply in U.K. for tainted gas
RAF MILDENHALL, England — The British gas company that supplied tainted gasoline to filling stations across the United Kingdom is waiting for results on whether Army and Air Force Exchange Service gas stations also have received bad fuel, authorities said.
Harvest Energy — which supplies gasoline to U.S. bases in the U.K. — dispatched an independent gasoline testing company Monday to determine if fuel at AAFES filling stations on RAFs Lakenheath and Mildenhall is tainted with silicone, according to company spokesman Chris Brown.
The results are expected back either Wednesday or Thursday, Brown said.
An AAFES spokesman, however, said the service believes it has not sold tainted fuel.
“We are not aware that we sold any bad fuel,” said Lt. Col. Dave Konop. “Our belief, as far as we know, is that we haven’t sold any bad gas.”
Konop’s comments came as motorists flooded an on-base auto hobby shop reporting problems similar to those suffered by frustrated motorists across the United Kingdom in the past two weeks.
The silicone-tainted gasoline has resulted in scores of British motorists pouring into mechanic shops nationwide with oxygen sensor difficulties, which often lead to complete engine shutdown, according to British media reports.
The gasoline testing at RAFs Lakenheath and Mildenhall came as a result of complaints to station attendants that their vehicles have not been running properly after filling up at on-base stations, RAF Lakenheath gas station manager Shelby Douglas said Tuesday.
“There is nothing wrong right now, but in the past there may have been a problem,” Douglas said.
RAF Mildenhall auto hobby shop manager John Pidgeon said motorists have inundated the shop complaining of check-engine lights appearing.
“We saw an incredible increase in the request for scans, and they were all predominantly oxygen sensor problems,” Pidgeon said. “Our scan rate has multiplied by 200 percent.”
He said the frequency of problems with an otherwise resilient component raises concerns.
“Oxygen sensors are fairly resilient so to have that many in such a short period of time raises a flag,” he said.
He also stressed that mechanics are unsure if tainted fuel is responsible for the spate of recent troubles.
Pidgeon said some cars are equipped with four sensors, and that repairs can cost anywhere between $300 and $1,000 in a worst-case scenario. The auto hobby center has reduced the cost of a diagnostic scan from $60 to $40 as a result of the flood of troubles, Pidgeon said.
Senior Airman Marisa Rojas, a supply journeyman at 100th Logistics Readiness Squadron, fears two of her vehicles may have been affected.
She first noticed sputtering in her Chrysler PT Cruiser about a month ago and a fuel filter had to be replaced. More recently, her new Mazda CX7 had its check-engine light appear Saturday after filling up at RAF Mildenhall days earlier.
“It’s a bit misleading to think you can trust AAFES, but at the same time where else are you going to go? You hear the problems off base as well.”
Christy Simmonson, a military spouse preparing to move, said her check-engine light began to flash Friday after filling up at RAF Mildenhall.
“It’s not a good thing. Having the light going off in my car about six weeks out from shipping; it is not cool,” she said.
Brown, meanwhile, confirmed that Harvest Energy had supplied gas tainted with silicone to scores of British gas stations in the past two weeks. An investigation has traced the silicone-tainted gas to a depot in Essex, he said.
>If you suspect car problems linked to gas ...
What to look for:
Check-engine light coming onBad fuel consumptionHesitation at low speedsSource: RAF Mildenhall auto hobby shop