TAMPA, Fla. – As Florida Gulf Coast residents prepare for Hurricane Idalia's arrival and life-threatening impacts, state officials report gas distributed from the Port of Tampa was contaminated, possibly impacting drivers in Southwest Florida.
Over the weekend, Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services (FDACS) officials learned about fuel contaminations at gas stations serviced by the Port of Tampa.
"FDACS has identified a potentially widespread fuel contamination caused by human error at the Port of Tampa," the state agency said in a statement. "Any fuel purchased after 10 a.m. on Saturday, August 26, at stations supplied by Citgo from the Port of Tampa has a strong likelihood of being contaminated with diesel fuel."
Any drivers who think they purchased contaminated gasoline can file a complaint by calling the FDACS consumer hotline at 1-800-HELP-FLA.
During a Sunday news conference, Gov. Ron DeSantis said the contamination was "human error," saying "They put diesel in tanks that were supposed to be regular gas."
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson said the contamination issue was discovered through a state Department of Transportation weight check because diesel is heavier than gasoline. Simpson said gas stations on the delivery manifest were notified within the hour of potential contamination.
Of the 29 gas stations the fuel was delivered to, Florida Department of Agriculture agents have inspected three. Two tested positive for contamination.
"We're working with the team to get those fuels evacuated and replaced with clean fuel. By the end of the day, we hope to have all of those gas stations identified, which fuel, which ones can open up and where we're going to work on that," Simpson said.
DeSantis urged Floridians not to wait until the last minute to prepare for Idalia or to make evacuation plans.
"All Floridians. You need to be executing your plans right now. I mean, this storm is scheduled to come probably sometime on early Wednesday," DeSantis said, adding "You're in the homestretch right here."
Idalia is undergoing rapid intensification and is forecast to become a hurricane by the time it arrives along Florida's Gulf Coast.
More than half of Florida's counties are under states of emergency with the impending arrival of Idalia with landfall expected along the Gulf Coast on Wednesday. The National Hurricane Center has begun issuing Storm Surge Watches and Tropical Storm and Hurricane Watches and Warnings. Impacts, including life-threatening storm surge, rain and hurricane-force winds will begin arriving on Tuesday.