By Philip Newman
At subway stations citywide scientists pumped harmless gas into more than a score of tunnels in an effort to find out what might happen in a poison gas attack underground.
It was not that anyone expected gas in the subway system, either in an attack or by accident.
The experiment, initiated by the Police Department, was carried out for three days starting Monday. It was aimed at finding out the risks of airborne contaminants in case of chemical, biological or radiological agents flowing into subway tunnels.
The tests were carried out between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. in all five boroughs by scientists and the NYPD.
“The NYPD works for the best but plans for the worst when it comes to potentially catastrophic attacks such as ones employing radiological contaminants or weaponized anthrax,” said Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.
The NYPD and scientists from the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, N.Y., conducted the testing Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Scientists from the Argonne National Laboratory, of Downs Grove, Ill., and Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico were observers.
Small amounts of a harmless and colorless gas called perfluorocarbons were released inside and outside subway stations with the scientists measuring the flow of the gas by temporarily installing special boxes outside stations and on streets.
This project involved 21 subway lines and more than 200 Brookhaven detectors to monitor the dispersal of the gas.
“Brookhaven lab is a world leader in the use of tracer gases to study airflow, and we are excited about this opportunity to apply this expertise to enhancing the safety of New York City residents and emergency responders,” said Brookhaven Lab Director Doon Gibbs.
The $3.4 million project was commissioned by the Police Department and will be paid for by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at [email protected] or phone at 718-260-4536.