- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 4, 2002

Business owners near the District's central mail-processing center on Brentwood Road in Northeast are worried about how fumigating the anthrax-contaminated building will affect the health of their employees and their companies.
The U.S. Postal Service was to begin cleanup next month using chlorine dioxide gas a deadly agent that was also used to fumigate the Hart Senate Office Building, which received anthrax-laced letters processed at Brentwood.
Yesterday, construction workers near the center said they were alarmed when two tankers escorted by a D.C. police detail rolled onto the post office grounds.
Giant Construction employees were working on a new store next to the Brentwood post office when the tankers arrived Tuesday. After two workers in hazardous-materials suits came near the construction site to test the air, the construction workers said they contacted their safety- and risk-management specialist.
"We were concerned, but they told us that we would be safe and there would be no danger of the gas leaking out of the building," said Richard McCracken, 38, plumbing foreman for Giant Construction.
Postal Service officials said the tankers did not contain chlorine dioxide because the chemicals used to create it must be mixed on site.
Giant spokesman Jamie Miller said he has been in contact with the D.C. Department of Health and the U.S. Postal Service about the ongoing preparations for the cleanup.
"D.C. Health and the Postal Service said there are no real health concerns to local business in the area," Mr. Miller said.
He said the site's construction superintendent informed some workers Tuesday afternoon that air monitors with the Environmental Protection Agency would be testingon a regular basis, but the tankersarrived before all the workers were told.
Other business owners and employees say they have not been given enough information about the cleanup and any potential dangers, even after a community meeting last week.
Managers at the Capital Auto Auction and Pals liquor store across the street from Brentwood said they are still very much in the dark.
"We'll be glad when [the Postal Service] gets this all cleaned up," said Joe Wells, co-owner of Pals.
Mr. Wells, 44, said Brentwood's closure has hurt his store, since many of his customers worked or did business there.
Bonnie Arce, office manager at Capital Auto Auction, said her company has asked the Postal Service to give them 10 days' notice before anything begins. She said the owners are worried that the city will close roads and scare away business for their Saturday auctions.
The Brentwood facility was closed in late October after Democratic Sens. Tom Daschle of South Dakota and Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont received anthrax-laced letters at their Hart Senate Building offices. The letters had gone through Brentwood, where two postal workers died after inhaling anthrax spores.
Questions about the logistics and costs of fumigating the 200,000-square-foot facility have delayed the cleanup.
Members of the Senate Finance Committee have been trying to get a final figure for the cleanup at the Hart Building to use as an estimate. The EPA has spent roughly $23 million so far on the Hart Building and the final cost is expected to be much higher, a congressional source close to the issue said.
The source also said the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has asked the General Accounting Office to determine why chlorine dioxide gas was chosen as the cleaning agent.
Postal Service officials said two weeks ago the Brentwood facility would be fumigated by Aug. 6, but yesterday postal officials backed off that target date.
"It could be within weeks that we will begin the cleanup process, but there is no official date yet," said Monica Hand, spokeswoman for the Postal Service.
Mrs. Hand said everyone will get a notice of the start date for the cleanup before anything takes place. Information can be obtained daily via a toll-free line at 800/527-0741, or online at www.usps.com, she said.

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