Feb. 7, 2019 By Laura Hanrahan
Council Member Stephen Levin is calling on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to suspend L train service until further answers can be provided about the strange, unpleasant fumes that have so far hospitalized four transit workers.
On Monday evening, commuters began complaining about strong smells of gas and burning rubber between the Bedford Avenue and Grand Avenue stations. Service, as a result, was temporarily suspended on Tuesday to allow the transit authority to investigate the smell originating near the Graham Avenue stop in Williamsburg.
So far, the investigation has turned up a few answers. What was originally assumed by many to be leaking diesel fuel from nearby work trucks turned out to be non-flammable heating oil, the agency said on Tuesday after an FDNY and DEP investigation.
“Both departments have confirmed that non-flammable heating oil from an external source had leaked onto the track and the incident is completely unrelated to the L train project or any other MTA construction,” the agency said. “Air quality on all stations has been tested and determined to be safe.”
While the MTA says they have placed fans on subway grates to air out the tunnel, and are using pads to soak up the oil that’s coming up from the ground, the fumes remained strong enough to send four MTA employees to the hospital, the New York Times reported.
Transport Workers Union Local 100 has also started distributing masks to station agents.
“The L-train situation is completely unacceptable,” said Tony Utano, TWU Local 100 president. “The air still stinks and we are concerned about long-term exposure and the health of our members working 8-hour shifts along the line. We have pulled workers from some locations and if the situation is not abated over the weekend we will take further action to protect the safety of our members and that of the riding public.”
L train riders have also complained of headaches, nausea, watering eyes and burning throats since the smells started earlier this week. The smell continues to persist as of Thursday.
MTA Chief Safety Officer Pat Warren, who visited the Graham Avenue station today, insisted that the train line and air is “100 percent safe.”
“The DEC and FDNY, globally recognized experts in this work, have made it very clear that there is absolutely no risk to the public and we are continuously monitoring the air quality for even small variations,” he said in a statement.
Unsatisfied with the MTA’s response, Levin took to Facebook to publicly call for a suspension of service, and to have it be replaced by a “robust” bus service until the MTA is able to provide more answers.
“I appreciate the FDNY and Department of Environmental Conservation’s close monitoring of the Graham Ave. station and the removal of non-flammable heating oil expected as the source of the strong odor,” the Facebook post reads.
“However, safety must be our first priority and I have heard from several constituents about sickness, nausea, and day-long headaches they’ve experienced over the past couple of days.”