UPPER EAST SIDE, Manhattan (WABC) --During the last two weeks, dozens of workers at the Second Avenue Subway construction site had to line up at a mobile testing van to take alcohol and drug tests.
A whistleblower tipped off the Eyewitness News Investigators to the crackdown following our undercover report of workers at construction sites on the West Side drinking heavily during their lunch breaks, a story that prompted a quick response from city officials.
"The Second Avenue subway job is out of control," the whistleblower wrote. "Pills, cocaine, liquor, pot, I have witnessed it all."
The MTA did confirm that 82 workers were tested for drugs and alcohol, and that nine of them failed and were immediately fired.
"That is an extraordinary high number," construction safety attorney Alan Ripka said of the 11 percent fail rate. "If the percentages are that, statistically, it shows you it is likely other people would have problems as well and obviously should be tested."
Joseph Malandro is the president of E.E. Cruz, one of the general contractors on the project.
"They will bring the testing truck back several more times unannounced until we feel comfortable everyone is drug and alcohol free," he said. "We want a safe workplace for everybody."
But in one of several emails sent by the whistleblower, he suggests that the random testing is not so random.
"We have testing, but it's a joke," he wrote. "The foreman ask if you can pass before they send you to the truck. If not, they send you home."
To get around that, Malandro said they are testing more often and at different times, including early in the morning. Eyewitness News has learned that the nine workers fired were tested around 8 a.m.
"Clearly shows this is a rampant problem, and the question is why," Ripka said. "These supervisors must know what's going on. You can see their bloodshot eyes, smell alcohol on their breaths."
According to the MTA, more than 600 workers were tested for drugs or alcohol in the past three years, and only 16 failed. However, Ripka points out that more than half of them failed in the past few weeks -- a spike he says suggests a growing problem.
The MTA's Inspector General is also investigating.