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Don’t Top off Your Gas Tank -- Save Money at the Gas Pump and Help Protect the Environment

Release Date: 6/28/2004
Contact Information: Donna Heron (215) 814-5113

Contact: Donna Heron 215-814-5113
PHILADELPHIA – In this era of high gas prices, it doesn’t pay to top off your gas tank. Those extra drops of gasoline may not end up in your tank, even though you pay for them. Instead, gasoline is probably being sucked back into the gas station’s vapor recovery system or evaporating into the air, causing air pollution.

When the pump automatically shuts off, that’s the signal your gas tank is filled. Putting more gas into an already full tank can actually damage your car’s vapor recovery system.

How does the pump know when to shut off? There is a sensing hole located at the tip of the nozzle. When that hole is covered with gas, the pump shuts off. If you continue clicking on the nozzle, that extra gasoline will either be sucked into the vapor recovery tube or overflow. Either way you will end up paying for gas that you don’t get.

“EPA and our partners – the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP), the Delaware Department of Natural Resources Environmental Control (DNREC), the City of Philadelphia, and the Air Quality Partnership – are encouraging all drivers to stop topping off their gas tanks,” said Donald S. Welsh, regional administrator for EPA’s mid-Atlantic region.

“Being exposed to gasoline fumes can increase health risks. And the chemicals in gasoline vapor contribute to the formation of ozone air pollution. ” Welsh explained.

PADEP’s Southeast Regional Air Manager Francine Carlini said that the purpose of the Don’t Top Off campaign is to educate residents.

“Pennsylvania DEP is glad to be part of this initiative because it is raising awareness of the problems associated with topping off at the gas pump,” Carlini said.

Morris Fine, director of the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Public Health, Air Management Services, said that through this initiative “we, as individuals, can have a direct impact on the healthfulness of our air”

Richard Kerr, vice chair of the Air Quality Partnership, agreed and said that not topping off the gas tank is a way for everyone to help improve the air quality in the Delaware Valley.

“Other simple things you can do to reduce air pollution are refueling your car in the evening, taking transit, and combining errands into a single trip, especially on Ozone Action Days,” Kerr added.

This summer the EPA and its partners are launching a compliance assistance initiative in Wilmington, Del. and the five counties in the Philadelphia area, including Bucks, Montgomery, Chester, and Delaware counties. In addition to random compliance inspections, gas stations will receive compliance calendars and handbooks outlining their responsibilities under the Clean Air Act.

Specifically, environmental inspectors from PADEP and DNREC will be conducting compliance testing of the anti-pollution devices known as vapor recovery systems that are required to be installed at all gas stations in the region. The system is designed to collect 90 percent of gasoline vapors produced during refueling and return them to the underground tank to await pickup by gasoline delivery trucks. Vapor recovery systems save millions of gallons of gasoline per year from being released into the air. This, in turn, reduces the release of air toxic emissions such as benzene and reduces public health risks for cancer and respiratory ailments such as asthma.

A variety of consumer outreach activities are also planned. During the week of June 28, a motorist survey will be conducted at area gas stations. AAA Mid Atlantic will make available “Don’t Top Off” brochures through its driving school. And public service announcements will appear in the Wilmington News Journal, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News.