Gas prices on the rise, inspectors make surprise visits

August 31, 2012 3:27:06 PM PDT
Gas prices have jumped noticeably higher ahead of the last, unofficial weekend of summer.

And that is thanks to Isaac's impact on refinery capabilities in the Gulf of Mexico.

The national average price for a gallon of regular self-serve gasoline rose to $3.83 per gallon Friday. This price is 10 cents more than one week ago, and that's up 31 cents more than last month.

Inspectors are our making sure everyone is getting what they pay for, no matter what the price.

In Gloucester County, the job of checking falls on Weights and Measures Superintendent Russell Cali and his assistant Tim Kelly.

Some days they use a measuring device to check if a gallon sold is indeed a gallon of gas, but Friday they were checking to see if the octane of the gas is as advertised.

It starts with an unannounced visit.

"We're out there looking over their shoulder basically," said Cali.

After purging the line, the pair takes a small sample and places it in a field testing device that will give them the Octane readout.

Much of their focus in on higher priced premium gasoline, having found in the past it can be diluted.

How? Here is an example: Cali says a dealer might over order regular gas. When the underground regular tank is full, an unscrupulous operator might put the extra 87 octane in the premium tank.

"He will put it in the tank it should not be in, in other words," said Russell Cali. "That dilutes the premium depending on how much product is put into it."

And that can inflate the dealer's profit.

But no such problems at the LukOil in Woodbury Friday, the 93 octane premium tested 93.9.

But down the street at the Garden State station the 93 octane did not make the grade. The first test read out was 92.8 and retested at 92.9. It was only a hair short, but still a miss.

Cali and Kelly collected a larger sample for a more exacting laboratory test.

"This is just a field test," said Cali. "And if the interpretation is iffy, this will probably come back okay, but that is not my call."

Cali says the sample that was taken will be sent to a lab in North Jersey for a certified test. If there is a violation, there could be a fine of up to $10,000.


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