- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 12, 2002

Residents and merchants in the Brentwood Road area of Northeast met last night with federal and D.C. officials to learn more about the lethal chemicals that will be used to remove anthrax spores at the nearby U.S. Postal Service facility.
Though some people who attended the meeting on the Gallaudet University campus expressed relief that after months of tests and delays the facility is set to be cleaned from Saturday through Wednesday, others said Postal Service and city officials should have distributed fliers or held more meetings to discuss safety issues.
"It may be a while before I go there to buy stamps," C. Clark Jones, executive director of nearby D.C. Vision in the 900 block of Brentwood Road NE, said before the meeting.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will allow crews to pump 40,000 gallons of chlorine dioxide into the 17.5-million-cubic-foot building. The facility has been closed since Oct. 21, 2001, after letters processed there reached offices in the Hart Senate Office Building. The gas also was used in the Hart building to flush out the anthrax spores.
Thomas Day, vice president of engineering for the Postal Service, said precautions have been taken to keep the toxic gas inside, even if the pipes leak.
"The building has been sealed and continually rechecked for cracks and leaks," Mr. Day told the crowd of about 50 people at Gallaudet.
Mr. Jones said he and his employees were not too worried, but they wanted more information about telltale symptoms if the gas leaked from the facility renamed the Joseph Curseen Jr. and Thomas Morris Jr. Processing and Distribution Center in honor of the two men who died of inhalation anthrax in October 2001.
He said the decontamination process could be like the anthrax attack because "they didn't know the symptoms."
Neighbors also heard assurances that fire department and emergency medical workers will be on-site during the fumigation.
Lee Wells, the owner of PAL Liquors in the 1900 block of Brentwood Road NE, said yesterday afternoon that officials have done a better job of informing the public as the process continues.
"At the beginning, it was a little shaky," he said.
D.C. Council member Vincent B. Orange, a Ward 5 Democrat who has been involved with the cleanup, said he is most concerned with safety and the time frame for everything to be completed.
Peter James, who lives near the postal facility and buys gas at the Citgo station across the street, said he is disappointed because it has taken so long for the decontamination.
He also said the threat of a chlorine dioxide spill will send him elsewhere to buy gas for his car.
For 12 to 18 hours, the gas will be pumped into the building, then remain there for 12 more hours. Crews will spend about 25 days collecting more than 8,000 spore strips. The strips will be sent to a lab for testing and to a committee of officials from the D.C. Department of Public Health.
The EPA will deem the building clean when results show zero growth of anthrax spores.
Postal workers could be back in the building by late April.
The Postal Service has set up an information line for questions from the community at 800/527-0741; the deaf or hearing-impaired can access the line through TTY at 800/418-5301.

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