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February 23, 2019

MTA worker hospitalized as noxious fumes continue to plague the L train

February 6, 2019
Fumes that made L train riders and train crews ill are lingering around, causing one MTA worker to get carried out of an L train station Wednesday morning. (Kevin C. Downs / for New York Daily News)

L train riders and transit workers are just canaries in the MTA’s coal mine.

A transit worker had to be carried out of the ‘L’ train station Wednesday morning after the sickening stench that caused a brief shutdown a day earlier came roaring back.

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Metropolitan Transportation Authority workers and environmental officials on Tuesday had stopped service on the L train. Officials believe that groundwater tainted with toxins or other contaminants was behind the heavy gas smell.

The odor seemed to hit riders the hardest between the Graham Ave. and Grand St. stops, lingering through to the Bedford Ave. station.

Despite the all-clear to start service back up Tuesday, workers traveling through the L line are still complaining to Rail Control Center that they’re getting headaches and feeling ill, according to a transit source in contact with crew members who felt sick.

“They’re telling them the smell is still here. Some guys are saying, I’m starting to feel a little lightheaded,” the source said. “Another person is saying, it’s making me nauseous.”

Responding to a 10:11 a.m. call of a sick person at the last stop of the L line, EMS hauled a train crew member out of the Canarsie Rockaway Parkway station. The crew member went to Brookdale University Hospital, according to the FDNY.

The incident Wednesday morning came a day after another MTA worker was hospitalized and two riders fainted from the smell.

The smell was so bad that representatives from Transport Workers Union Local 100 were handing out ventilation masks to station agents.

One station agent working at Graham Ave. bought his own mask after he began to feel ill on duty, a Local 100 source said.

A station agent at Lorimer Ave. wears a ventilation mask while the train tunnels fill with mysterious fumes.
A station agent at Lorimer Ave. wears a ventilation mask while the train tunnels fill with mysterious fumes. (Obtained by New York Daily News)

Evangeline Byars, an Executive Board member of train operators at Local 100, was at the Motrose Ave. station Wednesday to instruct workers in how to deal with the smell and fill out injury-on-duty forms.

Byars said train operators were not wearing masks, but were tucking their sweaters over their mouths instead.

Byars said she could only stand the smell for 30 minutes. “It’s not like just a regular odor,” said Byars It’s very, very strong and it’s traveling.”

A two-person train crew working on the L filled out haze-related injury-on-duty reports Wednesday afternoon.

“I have respiratory issues,” said the train operator. “My throat was irritated. I started coughing and weezing. My partner was complaining about nausea.”

“Even if they claim it’s not harmful, you need a respirator for this type of odor,” the operator added.

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DEC officials returned to the stinky stretch of track Wednesday to collect more samples and identify a source. A department spokeswoman described the smell as “aged petroleum odors.”

The MTA reassured riders Wednesday that the stench is not harmful. The agency set up fans and vents in order to try to ventilate the fumes.

“Safety is our number one priority, and the FDNY and DEC made it clear yesterday that there is no danger to our riders or workers,” said MTA spokesman Maxwell Young. “We continue to monitor air quality at the affected stations, and it has remained safe.”

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