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Kerosene sold at local stores may be dangerous

Contaminated fuel could cause fire or explosion

POSTED: January 28, 2011 10:56 p.m.

Kerosene sold at eight North Georgia Kangaroo Express convenience stores — some in Hall, Habersham, Barrow and White counties — might be volatile, state officials said Friday.

Agriculture Commissioner Gary W. Black is warning consumers who bought kerosene on or after Jan. 18 from several Kangaroo locations not to use the products in heaters or lamps.

Rich Lewis, director of the state’s fuel and measures division, said it is unclear how many people purchased tainted kerosene. The stations track how many gallons were sold, but not the number of individual sales.

The kerosene pumps have been locked at these locations until the tanks and lines are cleaned and new shipments are approved by state officials.

"They will remain sealed until the stations fix the problem," Lewis said.

Employees at seven of the locations declined comment. Phones were not answered Friday at the Bethlehem location. In a statement from Kangaroo Express, the company said its main concern is the safety of its customers and employees, and any tainted kerosene can be returned for a full refund.

Lewis said safe kerosene has an ignition point of above 100 degrees and the kerosene at all of these locations was below that point, meaning it had probably been contaminated with gasoline.

Contaminated kerosene was first discovered Tuesday at a Monroe gas station by employees on a routine check from the state’s fuel and measures division.

The kerosene was delivered by the Chattanooga, Tenn.-based Benton Oil Services, Lewis said.

Ross Benton, the company’s president, said crews were cleaning systems at the station Friday and he expected new kerosene to be in place by today. He said the company will complete an internal investigation and have the kerosene tested by a third party to determine where the contamination took place.

He said kerosene passes hands several times before it makes it to consumers, so tracking the problem may be difficult.

"We obviously have a problem. But where potentially was the problem? Where did it come from?" he said. "... We may not ever know. We might not know exactly at what point the kerosene became contaminated."

Lewis did not expect any parties to be fined, but said that decision is ultimately up to the agriculture commissioner.

"Nothing indicates anything malicious here," he said. "It’s strictly an accident — it appears to be."



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