WALNUT CREEK, CA - California officials have estimated that nearly 1,000 of California's 12,000 gas stations have not yet complied with an October 15 order from the State Fire Marshal to remove hands-free pumping clips from VST nozzles, Patch.com reports.
Stations with VST nozzles must either remove the hands-free clip or install approved nozzles at a cost of $180 to $300 each. Non-compliant stations face fines or even the closure of their business.
The hands-free clips came under scrutiny last fall when the California Air Resources Board reported to the fire marshal that they caused 13 spraying incidents, with a few people doused by gasoline because of clip malfunctions. Fire marshals then concluded the clips could pose a fire hazard or contribute to smog formation.
California's Fire Marshal office is responsible for enforcing the order, and it has sent lists of non-compliant stations to local fire districts.
Jay McKeeman, vice president of government relations for the California Independent Oil Marketers Association, said he believes non-compliant stations have not replaced their nozzles because of the expense.
"My educated guess is they haven't replaced the nozzles because they can't afford the replacement cost," he said, adding industry officials warn of an equal hazard from service station customers using other items to wedge the nozzles open, and that some seniors and disabled people aren't strong enough to hold the nozzle lever for extended periods of time.
McKeeman also tried to put the spraying incidents in context, explaining that the order was made after 13 spraying incidents in a state where more than 1 billion fill-ups occur every year €" and that only applies to the VST nozzles.