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Shannon Weidemann
Shannon Weidemann
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Slow Response for Mercury Spill on Los Angeles Subway

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Los Angeles’s subway stations are unattended and monitored only by closed circuit television cameras. In December a man spilled mercury on the platform at one of the stations and contacted the Metro Transit Authority on what he had done. It took 8 hours before anything was done to clean up the spill. In the meantime several passengers of the subway came in contact with the hazardous substance.

There is growing discussion among MTA board members and other local officials about a major overhaul of how the stations work — adding barriers and possibly gate attendants as well as more security officers. Some officials say the mercury incident proves that the agency’s reliance on closed-circuit cameras to show what’s going on underground is inadequate.

“If we go to gates, we would have a station attendant there all the time,” said Roger Snoble, the agency’s chief executive officer, who plans to present a report on the issue in the coming weeks. “They would be there to help keep an eye on things.”

MTA is weighing the costly proposal to decide if the costs outweigh the benefits. If they hire 500 workers to staff the subway stations it will cost $24 million annually.