- The Washington Times - Monday, December 6, 2004

Metro officials shut down the Pentagon station for more than two hours yesterday morning after a chemical sensor was activated and two workers became ill, Metro Transit Police said.

The station supervisor and manager complained of tightness in their chests and runny noses shortly after 10 a.m., prompting the supervisor to close the station, Metro Transit Police Chief Polly Hanson said.

There were no riders in the station at the time. Metro officials brought in buses to reroute passengers outside to other stations.

Original reports blamed the incident on an accidental release of pepper spray. But Metro officials later said they don’t know what caused the problem.

Chief Hanson said tests at the station conducted by the Arlington County Fire Department showed no dangerous substances. She noted that cleaning solvents have set off the chemical alarms in the past. The station reopened at 12:20 p.m.

Chief Hanson said the closure was unavoidable.

“Obviously, if you have an alarm activated and employees that don’t feel well, we have a responsibility to take every precaution and keep people safe,” she said.

The station manager was treated at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington after he complained of shortness of breath, which might have been caused by anxiety, Chief Hanson said.

The station supervisor was treated at the scene. He later returned to work.

Inconvenience to riders was minimal because the incident did not occur during morning rush hour, authorities said. Buses picked up and dropped off riders at L’Enfant Plaza, Pentagon City and Arlington Cemetery Metrorail stations to help them get around the incident.

Boyce Price and Erma Schumacher of Alexandria were on their way to Metro Center yesterday morning when they were told at Pentagon City that the Pentagon station was closed and that they would have to take the bus into the District.

The shuttle buses “were very crowded — standing room only,” Mrs. Price said. “But they took us all the way to Metro Center, so that was nice.”

The Pentagon station typically serves about 30,000 people during an average weekday.

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