November 17, 2001, AP - Wilmington Morning Star, Raleigh USPS Facility Cleaned; Trace amount of anthrax is 'insignificant', by Estes Thompson,
November 16, 2001, AP, Anthrax Found At N.C. Mail Center; Spores Thought To Have Traveled From Washington, D.C.,
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Decontamination is under way at a Raleigh mail distribution center after a trace amount of anthrax found there tested positive Thursday night. The trace was so small that public health officials deemed it "not medically significant." Officials said that extremely small amounts of anthrax spores were found on a stamp stock that arrived at the Westgate Road distribution center from the Brentwood Post Office in Washington, D.C., last month.
The spores were found in the accountable papers area of the facility, an isolated area inside the building. Officials said that the spores were found in a shrink-wrapped pallet.
Health officials said the trace posed no threat to the public and the building remains open.
A decontamination team from Washington, D.C., arrived at the facility around 4:30 a.m. At that time, it was found that the contaminated area was larger than first anticipated. As a result, it could take until late Friday or Saturday morning before the area is cleaned up.
The anthrax spores were discovered following the precautionary tests of 275 postal facilities nationwide last week.
On Nov. 8, 42 sites in the Westgate processing and handling plant were tested for anthrax as a precaution. Thursday night, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said that one of those areas tested positive for trace amounts of anthrax.
U.S. Postal Service spokesman Bill Brown said the sample found to contain anthrax was tested twice at the state lab before a third test by the CDC detected the bacterium.
"It came out with a trace amount of anthrax, very, very small," he said.
Officials said that the spores were found in an isolated area of the building, they describe as a vault.
Employees working overnight were briefed by supervisors and doctors from the health department. Despite hearing that the amount of anthrax found was so small, they were concerned that the building was not evacuated.
"There's a probability that I won't be coming to work tomorrow, I need to talk it over with my fiance. I feel that the post office does not care about me. I have to take it into my own hands to care about myself," said employee Faye Kennedy.
Brown said that the amount was so small that an evacuation was not necessary.
"We want to make sure everyone is safe, that everyone is informed and we want to make sure that everyone continues to do their jobs, also," he said.
The local postal union president disagreed with the decision not to evacuate the building.
"The questions basically revolve around whether or not the building should be closed or evacuated until such time that it is decontaminated. That's what the employees want, that's the union's position and management is not listening to us at this point and time," said Ajamu Dinnahunt, president of APU Local 1078.
About 10 people work in the area where the spores were found. After speaking to those people, health officials will decide whether they need to be tested.
Two doctors from the state health department and two counselors from the EPA are on site to answer employee questions.
"Even though this trace has been deemed not medically significant, the governor made it clear that he is going to keep the public informed on any information regarding their health and safety," said Fred Hartman, of Gov. Easley's Office.
Nearly 300 mail centers nationwide were tested after anthrax was found in the Brentwood post office in Washington. So far, 20 have tested positive for some trace of anthrax.