ANTHRAX CASE OVER -- PROBLEM  PERSISTS



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Last Updated

03 Nov 2006

Source: Richmond Times Dispatch, May 27, 2006.

Anthrax case over; problems persist

Former postal worker lives with ailments but court rejects suits

BY TRACY BELL, MEDIA GENERAL NEWS SERVICE

For most people, the 2001 anthrax attacks are a distant memory. But for Stafford County resident Leroy Richmond [case 14], they've become a part of daily life.  Richmond, who was exposed to anthrax in the fall of 2001 while working at the Brentwood postal facility, said he still has health problems, including fatigue and problems with memory and concentration.

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to revive lawsuits filed by former employees of the Washington postal facility who were exposed to anthrax.  Richmond, who worked for the Brentwood postal facility for 35 years, filed a $50 million lawsuit on two counts -- a total of $100 million.  Expressing disappointment in the court's decision, Richmond said there is nothing he can do beyond the decision, and that no further appeals are possible.  "I'll have to retire and find a job," said Richmond, "but I can't go back to work for the postal service because of my health."

Brentwood workers have said they were deliberately kept on the job though officials knew they had been exposed to anthrax through letters sent to Capitol Hill.  The facility was closed for 26 months while an investigation ensued and the building was decontaminated.

Postal employees filed a separate class-action lawsuit against the U.S. Postal Service.  Lead plaintiff Dena Briscoe of Clinton, Md., said the Supreme Court's decision not to hear the cases means that "no one's being held accountable."

According to Richmond, the postal facility didn't follow its standard operating procedures, which should have protected employees from remaining in harm's way.  Brentwood did not evacuate when it should have, according to Richmond, even after congressional offices closed and postal employees were hospitalized.

Anthrax-tainted letters were discovered about a week after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The letters were said to have targeted the news media, as well as the offices of two U.S. senators.  Two [cases 15 and 16] of the five people killed in the anthrax attacks were Brentwood employees. The case remains unsolved.

Anthrax, which is said to be non-contagious, can enter the human body through ingestion, inhalation or through the skin.

Richmond's attorney, Greg Lattimer, said, "It appears that the door has been shut on us."  Now 61, Richmond lives in North Stafford with his wife and 11-year-old son. He also has two grown daughters. Richmond said he is part of a study by the National Institutes of Health that involves the long-term effects related to anthrax.  He still speaks to people around the country who were affected by the anthrax attacks.

Richmond recalled his time in the hospital, where he spent 28 days. It was a scary time, he said, but also a time that involved heartwarming, spiritual support that served to motivate him. "I'd like to thank my friends and family, especially in Stafford," said Richmond. "They've been so supportive of my recovery -- especially my neighbors. I also received some beautiful letters from churches and community groups while I was in the hospital, and I kept saying, 'I've got to get out of here and go back to Stafford.'"