MONTGOMERY — The state official charged with inspecting gas pumps, and almost every other scale that members of the public comes in contact with during commerce, says he doesn’t have the manpower to look at everyone each year and wants lawmakers to put the burden on gas station owners.
Alabama Agriculture and Industries Commissioner John McMillan said Tuesday that there are gas pumps in the state that haven’t been inspected in at least five years. The oldest inspection sticker he’s seen recently was a 7-year-old one in Mobile. State law says that pumps should be inspected once a year.
“It doesn’t take a very intelligent person to figure out we are not complying with state law,” Daniel Autrey, chief of staff for the department, said at a board meeting Tuesday morning.
The department blames budget cuts for the lack of inspections. In 2011, it cut about 91 of its nearly 400 employees. It has gone from more than 20 inspectors to five.
The department is working on a piece of proposed legislation that would make inspecting the pumps and other scales the owners’ responsibility. The inspections would be done by what the department calls “registered service agents.”
“If you own a service station, you would be required by state law to make sure you’re having your pumps inspected yearly,” Autrey said.
The service agents would provide inspection information to the ag department, which wants to build a database of every gas station in the state.
McMillan said that currently, his office doesn’t know how many gas stations are operating in Alabama because they open and close quickly.
The ag department would still do spot checks on stations where problems are reported, McMillan said.
The TimesDaily reported last year that of the 90,523 fuels pumps around Alabama inspected in 2006, 7,851 failed the inspection, based on department numbers. About half the pumps failing inspection were dispensing too much fuel.
In addition, the lack of inspectors also prevents department officials from checking the accuracy of the about 20,000 scales used in meat and produce departments of grocery stores and other businesses where products are sold by weight.
“We regulate everything from gas pumps to large weight scales to small scales at pawn shops,” Autrey said.