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Last Updated

25 Aug 2003

Source:  Associated Press, September 16, 2002.

Post Office Tests Anthrax Prevention

By DERRILL HOLLY, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - Environmental technicians prepared Monday for what could be the last test needed before the planned fumigation of Washington's main mail-handling facility, where anthrax-tainted letters killed two postal workers.

The test, expected to begin early Tuesday, will be a second controlled test to determine whether toxic gas can pumped into the building to kill anthrax spores, then be removed and neutralized without escaping into surrounding neighborhoods.

Kristin Krathwohl, a U.S. Postal Service spokeswoman, said the operation will simulate detoxification of chlorine dioxide gas as it is pumped out of the sprawling building in the capital's northeast section.

No arrests have been made in connection with the anthrax-tainted letters mailed to members of Congress, which passed through the Brentwood facility last October. Two Brentwood postal workers died from inhaled anthrax. The scare led District of Columbia health officials to provide antibiotics to 17,000 people.

No completion date has been set for the overall project, which is expected to cost at least $22 million.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency will have air-monitoring equipment near the scrubbers to detect escaping chlorine dioxide. A bus carrying a trace atmospheric gas analyzer will cruise the area throughout the 24-hour testing period.

The industrial scrubbers at Brentwood are designed to alter the chemical makeup of the chlorine dioxide, essentially to turn it into saltwater, Krathwohl said. Similar pollution control equipment is used at factories, but at Brentwood it will have to decontaminate a massive warehouse covering 17 million cubic foot.

Anthrax-laden mail that reached the offices in Congress transited Brentwood.