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Shuttered Brooklyn gas station eyed for L train smell has grubby history

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Leaks and spills at the site have seeped into the ground and sewer system for decades

The station, pictured here in 2015, has since closed.
Christopher Bride, PropertyShark

The shuttered Brooklyn gas station that may be the source of the noxious smell that has infiltrated the L train and caused nausea, fainting, vomiting and headaches for riders and MTA workers alike has a long history of spills and leaks at the site. The Department of Environmental Conservation identified the site as a potential source of the gas odor last week.

The gas station at the corner of Bushwick and Metropolitan avenues has a decades-long history of contaminating its surroundings, a dive into public records by the New York Daily News shows.

Between 1989 and 2006, the owners of the station reported five leaks to the Department of Environmental Conservation. Those leaks of unquantified amounts include gasoline spills in April 1989, January 1992, and January 1999 that affected local groundwater, and a 2006 spill that seeped into the soil. A spill in May 1989 leaked 20 gallons of oil into the sewer system.

Last week the MTA identified an abandoned fuel tank at the site as a possible source of the stench. The oil contained within that’s used to heat homes is known to cause nausea and headaches.

Various sources have been floated as the origin of the stench since it appeared. Last week the MTA chief of safety and security Bobby Diehl proposed that a 20 million gallon oil spill in nearby Newtown Creek that began in 1950 may be responsible for the odor. Experts think that the supposition is not so far off.

“It can be expected that this contamination is further carried away, and certainly the tunnel where the odors occurred is not so far away from the spill site,” Dr. Markus Hilpert, an associate professor of environmental health science at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, told Gothamist last week.

Meanwhile, the MTA is at work building a new underground electricity substation across the street from the abandoned gas station, though a spokesperson from the MTA says the agency is not responsible for the fumes.