- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 5, 2002

Sen. Dianne Feinstein has ordered independent testing of environmental conditions throughout her suite in the Hart Senate Office Building because of worker health complaints.
"The senator simply wants an independent analysis," Mrs. Feinstein's spokesman Howard Gantman told The Washington Times yesterday.
She is the first senator to seek private testing since unprotected workers were let back into the Hart building on Jan. 22. The building closed in October after an anthrax-tainted letter was opened in the fifth-floor suite of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat.
Mrs. Feinstein, California Democrat, requested the tests be done this week after several members of her staff experienced nausea, headaches, burning hands and eyes, and a metallic taste apparently while handling irradiated government mail.
U.S. Postal Service officials said last week the symptoms "absolutely" are not the result of the irradiated mail, a security precaution implemented after the anthrax attacks last fall.
A spokesman for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) told The Times on Friday that the symptoms are "not being caused by byproducts of chlorine dioxide liquid or gas" that was used during the cleanup of the building.
EPA ombudsman Robert J. Martin, however, has said contaminants such as hydrochloric acid resulting from spontaneous chemical reactions when technicians spread the chlorine dioxide through the Hart building are causing the symptoms. Last week, he recommended the EPA immediately begin "a comprehensive environmental-testing program" to identify the contaminants.
EPA officials said substantial testing already was done "during and before" the time that chlorine dioxide was used to eliminate lingering anthrax spores and "no chlorine gas or other compounds were detected."
The private testing in Mrs. Feinstein's office will be conducted by a team from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, operated by the University of California, Mr. Gantman said. He added that the independent testing was not motivated by the EPA's lack of further testing.
Who will pay for the tests was not clear yesterday.
Mr. Gantman said the tests will be done over the next few days, during which scientists "will look closely at the irradiated mail, and they're going to be checking to see if there is any residual chlorine in the building."
"The University of California has offered to come in, sort of independently, and give me a little independent analysis of what's going on," Mrs. Feinstein said during an interview on CNN this weekend.
Meanwhile, Sen. Charles E. Grassley, ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, has not yet received any details about why it cost the EPA more than $14 million to clean the Hart building.
Two weeks ago, Mr. Grassley, Iowa Republican, asked the agency to provide a list of the private contractors hired to help with the cleanup.
Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C. Democrat, told editors and reporters at The Washington Times yesterday she was bothered by the seemingly expensive and incomplete cleanup in a building where "no one got sick and died" from anthrax exposure.
"Postal workers and members of the media were killed and their people went back to work, while the government spent $14 million to clean the Hart building over three months," she said.
"Now we're concerned that they did not clean out the poison that was used to clean the anthrax."


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