As BP's Midwestern gasoline recall has expanded, so too have the number of complaints.
The tainted gas, which originated from the company's Whiting, Ind., refinery, contained an above-normal level of polymeric residue, a type of plastic that doesn't burn off and can clog engines. It was reportedly sold between Aug. 13 and 17.
Originally, BP reported that the tainted gas had only been distributed in northern Indiana. It's now been revealed that it's reached as far as southern Indiana and includes the Indianapolis area.
Ricker's owns several BP stations in the greater Indy area, including on the westside and in Brownsburg, Avon, and Plainfield. Jay Ricker, their chairman, says the problem was only in their premium gas, which isn't a popular grade among their customers anyway.
"It's usually less than 10 percent of our sales," he said.
Ricker says he can't explain exactly what's wrong with the gas, only that "the symptoms are hard starting on a car, and sometimes the 'check engine' light comes on."
He said his office, which is in Anderson, hasn't received any direct complaints related to the recall yet.
"There wasn't a lot of (that gas) out there and we pulled it as soon as we were notified, or we diluted it, which was the recommendation from BP, with a lot more petroleum," Ricker said.
Jerry Williams, service manager at Bill Estes Ford in Brownsburg, said he has heard from customers worried about pumping bad gas into their cars, but hasn't had to physically repair any yet. He's unsure about the chemical that caused the recall, but says anything leaving unburned deposits in an engine can damage many other parts too.
"If it starts to leave some sort of contaminant on the spark plugs and injectors and/or the catalytic convertor, then obviously it gets very expensive very quickly," Williams said.
He added that the cost varies, based on the vehicle's year, make, and model. A worst-case scenario can cost upwards of $3,000.
BP itself is processing some 10,000 complaints, mostly in Indiana and Illinois. Those who think they bought tainted gas can call (800) 599-9040 or visit the website at bpresponse.com.
The company issued a statement late last week assuring the public that their product meets industry standards.
"BP sells more than 50 million gallons of quality gasoline in the U.S. every day and we guarantee every gallon we sell," the statement read. "We are committed to working with any affected BP consumer to make good on our guarantee."
Nonetheless, two lawsuits seeking class-action status have been filed in the state. The Indiana Attorney General's Office has also opened an investigation. Residents who believe they have car problems related to the tainted gas can file a complaint with the attorney general's office by calling (800) 382-5516 or by visiting the website IndianaConsumer.com. The AG has already received some 100 complaints.