I-Team: Video Shows MBTA Trash Barrels Failing Bomb Tests

By Joe Shortsleeve, Chief Correspondent for WBZ-TV I-Team

BOSTON (CBS) The i-Team has video the MBTA never wanted you to see because it raises serious questions about rider safety.

The video in question has been whispered about for years.

It raises questions not only about the MBTA, but about security in many public transportation systems.

The MBTA is the fifth busiest subway in the country, with trains packed with hundreds of thousands of riders each day.

Most commuters probably don’t even notice the stainless steel trash containers, even though there are hundreds of them spread throughout the stations.

WBZ-TV’s Joe Shortsleeve reports.

They are no ordinary trash cans. They cost thousands of dollars each and are made with re-enforced steel. They are built to with stand a terrorist bomb.

In terror attacks, public transportation systems are prime targets. Just last month, 35 people died inside Moscow’s major airport when a terrorist detonated a bomb in a briefcase. Back in 2004 in Madrid, 191 people died when terrorists set off a series of explosions on crowded trains.

A few months after the Madrid train bombings, the MBTA began using about $500,000 in federal money and purchased the trash barrels.

The working theory is that a terrorist would drop an explosive device in the trash so no one would spot a strange package lying around. If a bomb goes off in the trash can, the explosion is supposed to go straight up like a chimney, so no one standing near the barrel is hurt.

But, the video obtained by the WBZ i-Team shows a much different result.

In June 2004, MBTA officials secretly tested two of the newly purchased barrels at a field in Devens.

To their absolute shock, one of the $2000 cans failed miserably, blowing apart and clearly endangering anyone who could have been standing near by.

“I was surprised that the barrel failed to the extent that it did,” said Chief Paul MacMillan of the MBTA Police.

The company that sold the MBTA the barrels, the Mistral Group, told “T” executives they had done the test wrong, saying that they used too much TNT, even though the T only used about 20% of what was in one back pack in the Madrid bombings.

So, the MBTA sent the containers to an army base in Maryland for a second test, using less TNT and more careful placement of the bomb so it sat in the middle of the barrel. The MBTA says the barrels then passed that test.

But, the video from that June day also shows a second can from a different company also failing that MBTA bomb test. Those cans are also in the busiest stations. The MBTA gave the I-Team the exact same reason for that failure: too much TNT and improper placement.

Professor Joseph Wippl, a CIA agent for 30 years, says those two bomb barrels, which are now in airports and subway systems across the country, might be a good example of how government, handing out millions of dollars, overreacted to the events of 9/11.

Chief MacMillan says the only reason he would not buy more barrels is not because they under-preformed, but rather he has plenty of them and the terrorist threat is very different today than it was in 2004.

The company claims the barrels were tested, but the federal government, which handed out millions of dollars to transportation systems, didn’t do any of their own testing before telling agencies to buy them.

  • Just Me

    And we all know that a terrorist is going to place a bomb just so in a barrel! Morons! What a way to waste our money.

  • Ron

    This is what the I-team investigates about the T? Not the years of failure? Not the fact that service is late and suffers delays solely because employees don’t feel like working and not weather? No investigation of why service that was already in the toilet got worse once the new GM took over? No investigation of why trains that are scheduled to depart every 5 minutes sit at Forest Hills for 10-15 minutes every night while riders overcrowd platforms all along the Orange Line?

    • cynic

      I agree Ron…shouldn’t someone study why the Service on the Orange Sucks so bad?

  • decol

    Whose brother-in-law owns the Company that got the contract for the barrels?

  • Anon

    I guess Donkey Kong was unavailable for comment.

  • Cynic

    Thats OK…No one sets bombs off on the Subway anyway.

  • Deborah

    Are you kidding me, placing bombs incorrectly and using the incorrect amount of TNT to test the barrels???? Will the bomb barrel company hold seminars for terrorists teaching them how to use the proper amounts of TNT and to properly place the bombs in the barrels??

  • http://increasingmu.wordpress.com/2011/02/10/daily-links-02-10-11/ daily links 02.10.11 « increasingmu

    […] Enormous stainless steel trashcans the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority purchased at $2,000 a pop…. They are supposed to protect against terrorist attacks, but only contain explosions if a small amount of TNT is used and placed in the center of the can. This is classic Public Choice. The MBTA didn’t buy these things because they were stupid. They bought them because they were given $500k in free money for the project by the federal government. It’s not cost effective, but on the off-chance that these things prevent a successful terrorist attack, who will want to hear about fiscal prudence? Those “misers” would get lynched! […]

  • fred

    Joe go look at the Airport and ask how much they spent

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