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Metro: Station stink isn't organic brake pads

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Photo - Farragut North was among the Metro stations that experienced a foul, fishy smell last week. (AP file photo)
Farragut North was among the Metro stations that experienced a foul, fishy smell last week. (AP file photo)
Local,Transportation,Kytja Weir

Metro says organic brake pads are not the cause of a fishy smell in Metro's trains and stations, despite an email from a Metro customer service representative to a rider blaming it on the brake equipment.

The customer service representative responded to a rider's complaint about the stink last week with an email, which was published on the blog Unsuck DC Metro, that laid the blame for the stink clearly on the organic brake pads.

"The fishy odor is the result of organic brake pads. Our stock should be depleted soon. We have selected another manufacturer who does not use that material causing the strong odor. I apologize and thank you for your patience," the customer service representative wrote.

That is consistent with what the agency told the Washington Post in 2006 when riders complained of a similar odor akin to dead mice or rotten fish.

But the agency told The Washington Examiner on Monday that it will send another email to that rider, explaining the initial response was outdated. "Metro currently does not utilize organic brake pads on railcars. These pads were used in the past before a decision was made to use a different manufacturer," the agency said. "The information previously presented by Rail Customer Service was based on dated information which is no longer accurate."

The agency said the email also will explain that the cause of the stink is not necessarily from one source, though other brake pads could be to blame.

"Unpleasant odors in the Metrorail system and on trains can occur due to an array of factors. For instance, the increased temperature of the current brake pads can be a common source of odor from trains as they operate throughout the system," the agency said. "Customers' sensitivity to odors in the system varies greatly and can be enhanced by other environmental, station and train conditions."

When The Washington Examiner asked about the smell in January, the agency blamed sewer gas, saying it escaped when floor drains in the tunnels dry out. Yet riders had reported the smell hitting stations that are above ground, which don't have such tunnel drains. Riders also have said it seems to follow trains, rather than stay in one station. The mystery deepened this summer when the agency refused to answer questions about the smell.

This week, Metro officials said they will continue to monitor the issue and "provide the most accurate information possible to our customers."

kweir@washingtonexaminer.com

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