Drivers who filled up a tank of gas at the Mendenhall Valley Safeway on Tuesday around 5 p.m. soon realized they couldn't get very far because they had the wrong fuel.
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Petro Marine, supplier of petroleum products for the Safeway service station, pumped diesel fuel into the underground unleaded gasoline storage tanks, and vise versa, said company operations manager Jim Beckham.
The problem was due to human error, he added.
"This type of occurrence, at least at our company, is fairly rare," Beckham said.
Some 16 or 17 vehicles filled up with the wrong gas and had to be repaired, Beckham said. One or two more vehicles may have driven off with the wrong gas, he added.
The vehicles were towed to nearby garages for work and customers were given a free tank of gas, Beckham said.
No charges were billed to Safeway or the customers, as Petro Marine paid all of the bills, Beckham said.
Terry Carter at Glacier Muffler & Mechanical said the gas mixup would not damage engines. Carter's garage flushed out several of the customers' tanks - a process that takes up to 212 hours, he said.
The problem was immediately obvious as some cars were not able to leave the stations. Some vehicles filling tanks that were not empty were able to drive some distance, until their cars began smoking and it was obvious that there was a problem, Beckham said.
Safeway shut down its pumps and Petro Marine spent the night cleaning out the tanks and replacing them with the correct fuel. The pumps were running again at 6 a.m. Wednesday, Beckham said.
Petro Marine delivers fuel to dozens of commercial and residential customers in Juneau, as well as to customers in eight other Alaska coastal communities, Beckham said.
Andrew Petty can be reached at email@example.com.