- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 1, 2001

Federal officials last night pumped chlorine-dioxide gas into part of the Senate Hart Office Building, where an anthrax-laced letter was opened last month.
Authorities believe the toxic gas is critical in destroying all traces of anthrax spores in the building, which has been closed since Oct. 14.
While the fumigation got under way, officials in Connecticut announced that anthrax traces were found on mail sent to a neighbor of an elderly widow who died of inhalation anthrax last month.
At the Hart building, chlorine dioxide was pumped into the offices of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and Sen. Russell D. Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat. The anthrax-tainted letter was addressed to Mr. Daschle.
"This is the first time we've been involved with anything remotely related to bioweaponry," said Environmental Protection Agency chemist David B. Mickunas.
While scientists worked inside Hart, two $1 million lab buses assuming the role of sniffing dogs circled the building to monitor air outside.
The buses are equipped to detect any leak of chlorine dioxide, which can kill if inhaled.
Officials have debated for weeks a plan to use chlorine dioxide. Some scientists feared its high potency might damage computers and artwork still inside the connected offices.
U.S. Capitol Police Lt. Dan Nichols said the plan was approved after scientists tested the gas "on picture frames and other articles and it was found not to be harmful."
Lt. Nichols said the decontamination process will take 24 hours.
When the process is complete, meta-bisulfite will be pumped into the offices to break down the chlorine dioxide, turning it into salt.
Streets around Hart were closed last night and police shut down the Dirksen Senate Office Building at 4 p.m.
The Hart building houses the offices of 50 senators. Members of Mr. Daschle's staff said they are relieved the anthrax crisis appears to be ending.
"Everyone's been under great stress these past few weeks," said Daschle spokesman Jay Carson. "People will be relieved to finally get back in."
In Connecticut yesterday, officials searching for the source of the anthrax spores that killed 94-year-old Ottilie Lundgren of Oxford said traces of the bacteria were found on a letter sent to a home in the nearby town of Seymour.
Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland said no direct connection has been made between the letter and Mrs. Lundgren, the fifth U.S. fatality of inhalation anthrax since Oct. 4.
The anthrax trace found in Seymour is "so insignificant that no one in contact with the letter could have gotten anthrax or even become ill," Mr. Rowland said.
The letter was postmarked Trenton, N.J., and dated Oct. 9, the same postmark and date as the anthrax-laced letters sent to Mr. Daschle and Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat.
Investigators have tried to determine how Mrs. Lundgren, who rarely left home, came into contact with the bacteria. Using bar codes printed on envelopes, they determined that about 300 pieces of mail destined for the Oxford area went through a postal facility near Trenton.
None of those letters went to Mrs. Lundgren, but investigators speculate her mail likely came into contact with the letters when they reached a postal facility in Seymour, which processes mail for the Oxford area, Mr. Rowland said.
Meanwhile at Fort Detrick, Md., officials yesterday began the much-anticipated opening of the Leahy letter.
Evidence from other anthrax-laced letters sent to the New York Post, NBC News and Mr. Daschle was compromised by the time the FBI collected them because they were already opened.
Investigators have delayed opening the Leahy letter out of concern that mishandling it could jeopardize key evidence.
"Chances are there might be a bit of hair or DNA from a pore of sweat on the letter," an FBI spokesman said.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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