MBTA to Spread Dead Bacteria on Red Line in Bio-Terror Test

In order to test sensors that detect biological agents that terror groups could release into subway systems, Homeland Security and the T plan to release dead bacteria at three Red Line stops during off-hours.

The MBTA and Homeland Security plan to release dead bacteria into three Red Line stations this summer to test bio-terror sensors.

The agencies held a public meeting about the plan Wednesday. The bacteria, bacillus subtilis, is not infectious even in its live form, according to government documents. The bacteria is used in farming, as a food supplement for humans and livestock and as an ingredient in organic dog food, according to a government Q&A, attached as a PDF.

The tests will be done in Cambridge and Somerville at the Davis, Harvard Square and Porter Stations.

According to WCVB, some residents who attended Wednesday's public hearing at the Cambridge YMCA expressed concern about the plan. They also criticized that exact dates for the tests have not been made known.

The bacteria would be released when the stations are closed to the public. The government had rejected a plan to release live bacteria at rush hour, to simulate more closely how an actual attack would likely take place. However, that option was rejected because of the possible danger to "immune-compromised riders." For details, please see a second attached PDF with the government's analysis.

Biological attacks on subway systems have long been a concern. In 1995 a Japanese cult released nerve gas on the Tokyo subway system. The attack killed 12 people and injured 5,500.

Heidi Gurney May 18, 2012 at 11:52 AM
I love how the MBTA can treat us as there guinea pigs. No one knows what the reprocussions will be from breathing the dead virus in. It might be in organic dog food and dirt buy how many of us go around sniffing dirt and dog food? I don't think its right that we are be putting at risk.
john May 18, 2012 at 01:08 PM
look up "operation sea-spray". In the 50's, serratia was released in a test because it was thought to be harmless. It wasn't.
Marge May 22, 2012 at 03:04 PM
Lyme disease, AIDS, mad cow --- all manufactured in gov't run, military labs. That is what bacteriological warfare is about--things that nature abhors and doesn't allow to procreate but that man forces to come into existence and then spreads around to see what will happen to those exposed. his isn't the first time nor the last..for whatever reason, this time they want to tell you about it but make it all seem very innocuous. There are the "good" reasons given to the public and then there are the real reasons; the ones you won't be told about because normal people would never agree to be used as the guinea pigs. Exoteric and esoteric. Outer party and Inner party.
Linda Lindquist May 22, 2012 at 06:45 PM
How can the sensors detect the bacteria if it's dead?
George Mink May 23, 2012 at 07:05 AM
WHy do they need to spread this in a public area to see if said sensors function properly? Do they not have laboratories? Labs which would mimic the conditions of a rail station? This smells fishy to me


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