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Metro station bird deaths caused by pest poison

- The Washington Times - Monday, July 30, 2007

THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The dozens of birds found dead yesterday across the city, which caused the closure of three Metro train stations and prompted an FBI investigation, were killed by a contractor spreading pest poison, agency officials said.

By late yesterday afternoon, the transit agency had ended fears of a terrorist attack or at least problems with this morning's commute. But the reports of more than 60 birds dead near six stations had the FBI's joint terrorism task force and area hazardous-material crews in full response by midafternoon.

The discoveries began about noon, and reports continued to increase throughout the day. D.C. fire department spokesman Alan Etter said the situation at one point was "spinning wildly out of control" as dead birds continued to be reported.

The birds were found at the Green Line's Anacostia, Branch Avenue, Greenbelt and Naylor Road stations and the Red Line's Rhode Island Avenue-Brentwood and Takoma stations.

The three stations that closed briefly were Greenbelt, Rhode Island Avenue and Takoma.

Metro provided shuttle buses for commuters.

Andy Solberg, commander of the Metropolitan Police Department's 2nd District, in the afternoon described the substance as cracked corn laced with formaldehyde, blood-pressure medicine and "other stuff I cannot even pronounce."

Mr. Etter later said authorities found pellets of D-Con, a commercial rat poison, at one station.

Cmdr. Solberg also said somebody in a black pickup truck was seen spreading the substance at an enclosed area near the Anacostia station, which helped resolve the incident.

There were 20 dead birds outside the Greenbelt station, 15 at the Branch Avenue station, Mr. Etter said.

Despite the concern and the FBI's involvement, he said there was never an indication the incident was an attack.

Metro spokeswoman Cathy Asato said the contractor was not authorized to spread the poison at that time of day and that he should have removed the dead birds.

Mr. Etter said the birds were packaged and taken to health officials because the rain and wind caused most of the substance to wash away by the time the fire department arrived. The National Institutes of Health also is investigating.