- The Washington Times - Friday, August 23, 2002

A test was successful in cleaning anthrax from an area of the Brentwood main mail-sorting plant, closed since last fall because of contamination from letters sent to two senators, the Postal Service said yesterday.

"This proves that the procedure we designed for decontaminating the building works," said Thomas Day, the agency's vice president for engineering.

The 17-million-cubic-foot building in Northeast has been sealed since the discovery of the tainted mail in October. Two postal workers died from contact with anthrax and thousands were treated to prevent infection.

Officials have worked on a plan to decontaminate the facility with chlorine dioxide gas, which was used to clean portions of the Hart Senate Office Building. The postal facility is much larger and the entire building needs to be decontaminated.

On July 29, the Postal Service tested part of the facility to make sure the gas could be contained inside for the required time and under the proper conditions to work.

After that test, 194 liquid samples and 10 air samples were taken from the treated area and sent to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. All tested negative, showing that no anthrax spores survived the gas, the Postal Service said.

"These test results should ensure the community that the fumigation process will be a success," said Theodore Gordon, senior deputy director of public health for the District.

Postal officials said preparations are under way to fumigate the entire building, but no date has been set. They said a community meeting is planned first to answer questions from nearby residents.

Also closed was the Hamilton post office near Trenton, N.J., where the contaminated letters were mailed. It will be decontaminated after work at Brentwood is complete.

Overall, five persons died and 13 others fell ill in a series of anthrax-by-mail attacks last fall that also affected residents of Florida and New York.

No arrests have been made.

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