Diesel, gas mix-up at Cape Cod gas station worse than investigators first thought

DENNIS, Mass. — Inspectors on Cape Cod found a gas and diesel mix-up at a Dennis gas station last month was worse than they first thought.

Barnstable Weights and Measures told Boston 25 News Tuesday their investigation found Brown Bear Transportation out of Springfield had accidentally pumped hundreds of gallons of premium gas into the underground diesel tank at Cape Cod Farms gas station on Main Street in Dennis on April 22. About 150 gallons were sold before the mishap was discovered, the department said.

But on Wednesday, after calling the fuel delivery company again, inspectors confirmed the suspicions of a driver Boston 25 News had interviewed: in a complete mix-up, diesel fuel had also been inadvertently pumped into the premium tank.

“After more investigation it was determined that Brown Bear Transportation accidentally put 1,000 gallons of diesel in the premium tank and 300-400 gallons of premium in the diesel tank,” a report from the department states. “Both products were affected.”

Minutes after an attendant at the same Dennis gas station that day filled Jacqueline Rutkowski-Murgia’s tank with what she thought was premium gas, she suspected there was a fuel issue with the 2019 Range Rover Evoque.

“I thought, there’s something wrong with this vehicle. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something wrong,” Rutkowski-Murgia said. “I noticed that when I was pressing the accelerator…the car didn’t seem to be responding correctly. And it’s a newer car.”

With no warning lights on the dashboard, Rutkowski-Murgia continued the 70-mile trip home to Braintree that Friday afternoon. But on Monday, when she started the car again, there were immediate issues, she said.

“The car became undrivable to the point where I thought about calling for roadside assistance,” Rutkowski-Murgia said. “At that point, there was black smoke, and my engine light had come on already. I thought perhaps the engine was going to seize, that everything would lock up. And I was afraid my driving the vehicle any further would be damage further to the car and also a danger to other drivers.”

Rutkowski-Murgia drove to the dealership in Norwood where she received a $4,500 bill to cover damage to the fuel pump and injectors.

In another incident, Christine Cadorette, office manager for Shea Custom Carpentry, told Boston 25 News Tuesday the company’s new diesel van began experiencing issues soon after filling up at the same gas station on that same morning, presumably with premium instead of diesel.

“They fueled up Friday, and by Monday, it was broken down and had to go in,” Cadorette said. “We received a call today where they let us know that there were fuel injection issues and that it was from faulty fuel. The vehicle was supposed to be a diesel.”

The van spent several days in the shop, racking up a $2,000 bill, Cadorette said.

“Fleet vans are hard to come by the past few months, with COVID and shipping and supply chains and chips and all that stuff,” Cadorette said. “And then we were able to get it get it up and running… It’s got under 10,000 miles on it. So, it was not ready to be out of commission like that yet.”

Once Brown Bear Transportation, a division of Roberts Energy, discovered the mishap that morning, the company called the gas station and returned to pump, clean and refill the diesel tank, Barnstable Weights and Measures Program Director Jane Zulkiewicz, told Boston 25 News Tuesday.

The gas station owner then shut down the diesel pump for the morning and compiled a list of 10 credit card customers to call and notify them they had received bad diesel. Cash-paying customers are more difficult to track down, Zulkiewicz said.

Brown Bear Transportation gave their contact number to the gas station to pass on to affected customers in order to cover their expenses, Zulkiewicz said.

Zulkiewicz said she has received calls from three affected customers and the company is working with all of them.

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