By Don Bolding
Killeen Daily Herald
In the wake of a Texas Department of Agriculture investigation of a major South Texas convenience store chain for suspected manipulation of gasoline pumps to deliver less gas than customers pay for, a check of Central Texas fuel dealers on the TDA Web site indicates they are among the most honest and accurate in the state.
The Web site said the only station out of compliance in the local area in the past 60 days was an independent convenience store in Killeen that had two pumps that inspectors found did not return to zero after a sale.
Inspectors found the first one in response to a consumer complaint and found another doing the same thing. TDA officials reported no indication of intentional tampering, but they did not return calls Wednesday afternoon about whether the problem had been corrected.
The TDA released results of a weekend investigation Tuesday that showed 990 pumps at Sunmart stations owned by the Woodlands-based Petroleum Wholesale were delivering less gas than consumers purchases. Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples said, "I strongly suspect this was an intentional act."
The nearest Sunmart station to Killeen is on Interstate 35 in Georgetown. Information on the TDA's Web site said it was among the stations out of compliance.
Cynthia Baker, spokesperson for 7-Eleven in Dallas, said the company gets a third party to perform full maintenance on pumps annually, more often if there's any indication it's needed.
Leslie Lockett, public information officer for H-E-B in San Antonio, said the company does a full recalibration on all pumps every two to three years and inspects machines immediately any time a malfunction is suspected.
"We keep all technology current," she said.
Other local fuel retailers did not return calls about their pump maintenance, but the TDA Web site reported no other irregularities.
The TDA has 72 weights and measures inspectors responsible for checking 65,000 pumps on a four-year cycle. They respond to complaints and perform routine checks on all other pumps. They do not post problem pumps that cost station owners. The state allows a small variance because demanding perfection would make operations almost impossible.
An Associated Press report earlier this month found that 5 percent of gas pumps inspected across the state last year had reportable variances that cost consumers. The TDA told the AP that problems cost the sellers about half the time and consumers about half the time.
The TDA can assess fines for dealers who rig pumps intentionally or fail to repair pumps found in noncompliance.
Anyone suspecting a problem with a pump can call 1-800-TELL-TDA.
Contact Don Bolding at email@example.com or (254) 501-7557.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.