Are You Pumping 'Sludge' Instead of Gas?

July 3, 2008

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The next time you go to the gas station, you may be pumping 'sludge' into your tank. It's a sticky build up on the inside of underground gas reservoirs. And it can clog your engine or lower your gas mileage.

The so-called 'sludge' is a result of the recent transition to fuel that contains 10% Ethanol. The addition was meant to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. But there appears to be a temporary side effect.

According to the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, which inspects gas pumps, "Ethanol acts as a cleaning agent in station tanks and motors, which can cause sludge to surface in fuel."

Once it surfaces, drivers can unknowingly pump it into their tanks. Officials say they have noticed a recent spike in complaints.

So how do you know if you are pumping bad gas?

The Agriculture Department says sludge clogs a gas pump's filter. So the pump will start running slower than normal. If it takes longer than 10 minutes to fill your tank, there may be a problem.

You should alert the station attendant and call the Agriculture Department at the phone number listed on the sticker on the pump.

There is some good news -- this should only be a temporary problem. Once gas stations purge their tanks of the sludge, the cleansing effect of the Ethanol should keep it from coming back.

Reporter: Mark Bullock