A new mobile testing laboratory is being launched in a bid to crack down on petrol stretching.
Ballina's Deputy Michelle Mulherin has been calling for such a mobile testing facility since shortly after the issue of petrol stretching came to the fore in Mayo last summer and she issued a warm welcome to news that the lab will soon be out on the road.
The number of people reporting damage to their vehicles due to suspected petrol stretching increased sharply in Mayo last September and October.
Over the last 12 months, gardaí in Mayo have received 296 complaints about suspected petrol stretching but there have still been no prosecutions or files sent to the DPP on the matter.
Deputy Mulherin said the new mobile laboratory will be dispatched to petrol stations to test the quality of petrol at the time of delivery in a bid to identify contaminated fuel at the source.
"This should serve to detect and deter petrol stretching and will mean that, in the case of contaminated petrol being identified, there will not be a time lag of a few weeks waiting for results to come back from the State Laboratory," explained Deputy Mulherin.
"Furthermore, a new marker has been developed to assist in the detection of a contaminant in petrol, something which up to this point has proved extremely difficult."
Petrol stretching refers to the practice of illegally adding stretching agents to fuel to boost profits. The adulterated fuel leaves a sticky residue in the engine which can cost thousands of euros to clean up. Some motorists who fall victim to the scam have to replace their engines entirely.
Deputy Mulherin is calling on Minister for Finance Michael Noonan to set-up a compensation fund for motorists left out of pocket by petrol stretching, with the scheme to be financed from assets seized from those found to be engaged in petrol stretching and diesel laundering.