Something stinks: Pols, union leaders demand L service suspension after lingering fumes send workers to hospital

No service: Transit leaders are halting service on the L train for 15 weekends, starting with this one, until April.
Photo by Paul Martinka

State transportation officials must indefinitely stop service on the L train until they erase all traces of the noxious gas fumes that filled the line’s tunnels last week and reportedly sent workers to the hospital, and caused straphangers to faint and vomit, according to a local pol.

“MTA should immediately suspend train service,” Williamsburg Councilman Stephen Levin said on Friday. “Public health and 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.”

Leaders of the state-run Metropolitan Transportation Authority suspended L service between the Morgan Avenue station and Manhattan for several hours on Monday after locals filed reports about the potent smell floating from the underground tunnel and around the neighborhood.

Firefighters and state environmental workers investigated the odor, originally claiming it resulted from an oil leak unrelated to work the L train that includes an ongoing series of weeknight and weekend repairs ahead of the massive rehabilitation of the line’s Brooklyn–Manhattan Canarsie Tube set to kick off this April.

But following their initial assessment, officials later said the fumes wafted from an abandoned diesel tank under a former gas station along the line, according to reports. And last Thursday, transit officials brought in an outside environmental consultant to test the air, which showed no contamination, according to the expert’s study.

But riders continued to complain about the stink later that night and into Friday — with paramedics rushing a handful of union employees who work on the tracks to area hospitals after they fell ill on Thursday night, according to their union boss, who demanded officials properly address the odor before it causes even worse casualties.

“The L-train situation is completely unacceptable. 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,” said TWU Local 100 President Tony Utano. “We have pulled workers from some locations, and if the situation is not mitigated, we will take further action to protect the safety of our members and that of the riding public.”

Levin doubled down on Utano’s demands for a complete investigation of the stink, calling for amped up bus service to replace subways along the L line until there is no doubt the air is clear.

“Set up a robust bus service in its place until we have more answers,” the pol said. “We cannot be too cautious when it comes to workers and riders safety,” he said.

The concerns over the fumes echoed previous worries about straphangers’ exposure to other harmful chemicals potentially released into the air during the Canarsie Tube’s forthcoming repairs — which will now allow trains to run the line’s full length at reduced rates throughout the fix as workers spend nights and weekends fixing one of its two tunnels at a time.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@schnepsmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.

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