- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 12, 2001

Amid mounting pressure to reopen the Hart Senate Office Building, which closed nearly two months ago, federal officials plan to ship anthrax-contaminated items from the building to a private sterilization company in Richmond, sources close to the company said.
The Environmental Protection Agency will ship files, computers, electronic devices, framed pictures and books from inside Hart and other congressional buildings to the Richmond facility of Atlanta-based Sterilization Services Inc.
"We'll be working with the EPA to decontaminate stuff that came out of the Hart building," said Tom Fisher, the company's general manager. "It will start within the next two days."
The EPA will send between five and seven truckloads of office materials to Sterilization Services, and it will take the company about a week to decontaminate the stuff and send it back to Capitol Hill, Mr. Fisher said.
Repeated phone calls about the plan to EPA officials were not returned yesterday.
One official reached early in the day said he could not discuss any agreement the EPA might have with Sanitization Services Inc. because, "due to the heightened media attention to this project, there may be sensitivities that could affect the success."
Krish Krishnan, of D.C.-based NetCompliance Inc., which studies federal agencies for corporate clients that deal in hazardous-materials management, said the EPA believes these items "are potentially contaminated with anthrax," despite the fact that most congressional buildings already were decontaminated.
The EPA plans to use double-layered, 3-millimeter-thick plastic bags, "to transport critical items that have undergone gross decontamination procedures," Mr. Krishnan said.
In order to transport this stuff, the EPA has to get a waiver from the Department of Transportation exempting it from certain regulations about transporting infectious materials, said NetCompliance spokes-man Michael J. Volpe. "They requested the waiver on Dec. 3, when they get it, they said they'll start transporting within 90 days."
But Mr. Fisher said the EPA already had permission from the DOT and would begin shipping the items to his company within the next two days, as soon as contract specifics are worked out.
The Hart building has been closed since an anthrax-packed letter was opened in the office of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, on Dec. 15.
EPA officials said they still don't know whether the toxic chlorine dioxide gas pumped last week into Mr. Daschle's office successfully killed lingering anthrax spores. But the fact that officials are sending individual items out to be cleaned raises questions about the effectiveness of the gas.
It was not clear yesterday when Hart will reopen. The EPA said on Dec. 3 results from the treatment would be back within five days.
But Richard Rupert, the agency's on-site coordinator for decontamination, said that though the results "look good so far, it's very preliminary data and really not ready to be analyzed."
Lt. Dan Nichols of the U.S. Capitol Police, which is overseeing the decontamination effort, previously told The Washington Times that until it is determined whether the toxic gas worked, "We won't know how long it will be before Hart building reopens."
"We're being pushed by public safety more than anything else," he said yesterday. "That's the most important thing."
The Postal Service has said if the gas was successful, it soon will be used to decontaminate the District's central mail processing center on Brentwood Road. Brentwood closed on Oct. 21 when two postal employees there died of inhalation anthrax.
Meanwhile, federal law enforcement authorities continue to vigorously investigate a letter addressed to Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, that was seized by the FBI on Nov. 16 from quarantined Senate mail.
Van A. Harp, assistant director of the FBI's Washington field office, said whoever is behind the anthrax attacks, which have claimed the lives of five Americans since Oct. 4, is guilty of "five homicides, and we believe at least 13 attempted homicides."
"We have been very deliberate and methodical in developing a methodology to open and examine the [Leahy] letter," he said. "We hope to learn in the final analysis, literally, who did this and how they did it."

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