Natural-gas odors prompt brief subway shutdown

The Maryland Transit Administration's underground Metro stations were shut down for about an hour and a half Monday as city fire department units performed air-quality tests in response to reports of natural-gas odors, fire officials said.

Fire department spokesman Chief Kevin Cartwright said that just before noon a civilian at the State Center terminal reported a possible gas odor to a city police officer, who notified the fire department.

He said that all MTA underground stations were then shut down, as fire and hazmat units conducted air monitoring in the stations. He said that initially the units "found no levels of gas of any sort," and stations were reopened.

But Cartwright said that around 2:30 p.m., the department received a report from MTA staff of a natural-gas odor at the Penn North MTA station. He said that hazmat coordinators were dispatched and obtained a "very low level" of natural gas and attempted to isolate its origin.

Penn North was not shut down, but MTA spokesman Terry Owens said that the hazmat team boarded an empty rail car and traveled the rails from Penn North to Johns Hopkins Hospital station and back to Penn North to detect gas.

"They have not been able to locate the source of natural gas on any route," said Owens, who added that no stations were shut down while hazmat officials rode the trains assessing air quality.

Cartwright said that areas underneath manhole covers in city streets were also assessed, and that no one suffered any ill effects from odors.

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