- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 15, 2002

The U.S. Postal Service began pumping two tons of chlorine dioxide throughout the anthrax-contaminated Brentwood postal sorting facility yesterday, a significant step in the fumigation of the structure that officials hope to reopen in mid-April. The processing center has been closed since October 2001.
"I just want to let you know we're flowing," a man wearing an orange "incident commander" flak jacket said while talking on his cell phone outside the facility at 900 Brentwood Road NE about 3:30 p.m.
The 17.5 million-cubic-foot Joseph Curseen Jr. and Thomas Morris Jr. Processing and Distribution Center renamed in honor of two colleagues killed by inhaled anthrax spores from tainted letters in October 2001 was expected to absorb 12 straight hours of gas distributed by emitters, said Theodore J. Gordon, D.C. health department senior deputy director for environmental health science and regulation.
He said officials must maintain three levels to ensure the fumigation's success: a temperature of 75 degrees Fahrenheit, a relative humidity of 75 percent and a chlorine dioxide gas concentration of 750 parts per million. He said the building is sealed.
Then officials will reverse the process, and use scrubbers and bisodium sulfite to neutralize the gas, Mr. Gordon said. The process is expected to be completed by tomorrow.
"It should be cleared in 30 to 45 days," Mr. Gordon said. During that period, officials will scrutinize more than 8,000 spore strips left in 4,000 locations inside the building.
Dena Briscoe, a 22-year Postal Service veteran and the president of Brentwood Exposed, an employee support group, voiced concern that the process still may not do the job.
"I'm confident they will kill a large amount of the spores, but it's the negligible-risk amount of spores that may be left that I'm uncomfortable with," she said.
A scientific review committee, co-chaired by Dr. Vincent Nathan of the D.C. Department of Health and Jack Kelly of the Environmental Protection Agency, will review the collected culture tests and declare the building safe if examination of the spore strips indicates no growth.
Chlorine dioxide was also used in December 2001 to fumigate a suite in the Senate Hart Office Building, where an anthrax-tainted letter was received in the office of Sen. Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat. A letter to Sen. Patrick Leahy, Vermont Democrat, was intercepted. Both letters were processed at the Brentwood facility, which is more than 170 times larger than the Daschle suite in the Hart Building.
More than 1,600 employees worked three separate shifts at the 24-hour facility, said Gerald McKiernan, U.S. Postal Service spokesman. It was the District's primary incoming and outgoing sorting facility, and it routinely handled more than 3.5 million pieces of mail a day.
District Health Department officials said they canvassed the Brentwood neighborhood late last week, visiting residents, businesses, day care centers and other operations in an effort to spread the word about the upcoming fumigation.
Part of the Brentwood cleanup will consist of removing the specially built fumigation equipment and sending it to Trenton, N.J., to assist in the cleanup of postal facilities there. The anthrax-tainted letters were mailed from Trenton.
The cleanup at Brentwood and the Trenton facility has exceeded $100 million, officials said.
The U.S. Postal Service said it intends to refurbish the Brentwood facility with new carpets and fresh coats of paint.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide