WATERVILLE — The owner of the Mobil gas station on Pleasant Street blamed the fuel mixup that left several of his customers with damaged vehicles on an error by the distributor who delivers fuel to the station.

A delivery person from Downeast Energy mistakenly put diesel fuel into the super octane grade tank and super octane in the diesel tank, according to Muhammad Ismael, owner and franchisee of the station operated with the On the Run convenience store. He guessed that the delivery person might not have paid close enough attention.

Ismael stressed that once the mistake was identified Jan. 11, the store ceased selling the product and started cleaning the tanks immediately. He even put paper signs that said “only regular” on the pumps to warn customers that regular 87 octane gasoline was all that was available.

Cases of diesel and gasoline being mixed up appear to be infrequent in Maine. Ismael said it had never happened in the 15 years he has owned and operated the Mobil station. John Bott, communications director for the commissioner of the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, said in the five years he’s there, he hasn’t heard of a similar case either.

The mistake caused engine trouble for 10 or 11 of Ismael’s customers. The results varied from simply needing to drain the fuel from vehicle tanks to over $700 in damage.

Mike Cote said he repaired one of the affected vehicles at Thompson’s Volkswagen in Waterville. He said that if the wrong type of fuel is put into a vehicle, the fuel doesn’t cool properly and can ruin components in the engine.

Ismael said the affected customers would be compensated.

Downeast Energy, which is based in Brunswick, is handling claims from affected customers, Ismael said. Anyone who wants to make a claim can contact the manager at the store and will be given forms to fill out.

A representative from Downeast Energy did not return a call immediately Thursday afternoon to explain the mistake and the timeline for compensating customers.

Kevin Strickland, who paid for $700 in repair work for his 2006 Chevrolet TrailBlazer after pumping the wrong fuel last week, said Ismael and the representative have been attentive and accommodating.

“They said, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll cover it all,’ ” Strickland said over the phone Thursday. “The mechanic faxed both of the bills over to Mobil.”

He initially noticed a problem with his vehicle at 6 a.m. Jan. 11, when he and his family tried to start the vehicle to head to Boston. The engine ran for a few minutes and then stopped. He had it towed to M&M Auto Repair in Winslow, where the mechanics found the throttle body and secondary air pump needed to be replaced. The bill he received totaled $735.

However, when Strickland tried to start his vehicle again Monday, the engine started to smoke and he thought he smelled diesel fuel.

Strickland had to get his vehicle towed back to the shop and the mechanic drained his tank and cleaned the fuel lines. He said it’s possible that certain sensors in the vehicle still will need to be replaced, which could total another $800.

“(Ismael) was very apologetic, and it’s all going well so far,” he said.

Tom Hachey, the owner of Arbo’s Towing and Repair in Waterville, said he had to drain diesel from two of his tow trucks after filling up at the Mobil last week. He said he had to replace the fuel filter on one truck.

Bott confirmed that his office has received documentation confirming that Ismael and Downeast Energy have gone through the proper steps to solve the problem, which included having the tanks cleaned and purging the fuel lines.

Other than being unable to sell super grade and diesel fuel, Ismael said he did not notice a decrease in business. He said he generally sells about 2,000 to 3,000 gallons of regular 87 octane gas a day, with only 100 gallons being diesel or super grade gasoline.

“We have very loyal customers,” he said.

Emily Higginbotham can be contacted at 861-9239 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @EmilyHigg