- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 17, 2002

The U.S. Postal Service will conduct a "final system test" today to ensure the District's mail-processing center on Brentwood Road NE is ready to be fumigated for anthrax spores.
Today's test, which is expected to take 24 hours, will help determine if toxic chlorine dioxide gas pumped into the 17-million cubic-foot building to kill the spores can be removed and decomposed without spreading into the Northeast neighborhood.
"Chlorine dioxide gas will be continuously pumped through the system at rates and concentrations that simulate the expected conditions for the final fumigation," the Postal Service announced in a statement.
Postal Service spokeswoman Kristin Krathwohl said technicians "want to make sure that the [air] scrubber system is working properly so that there are no leaks."
The air-scrubber system that has been attached to the Brentwood facility for the fumigation will break down chlorine dioxide into salt and water, Mrs. Krathwohl said.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will have a specially equipped bus circle the building during the test to monitor air quality and ensure the toxic gas is not leaking from the building, where two postal workers died of inhalation anthrax in October.
"Should there be any type of emission, it would immediately shut off, just as it would during the actual fumigation," Mrs. Krathwohl said.
Although no date has been set to complete the Brentwood project, its estimated costs could top $22 million.
"The Postal Service will be holding a town-hall meeting in the very near future, and at that time we'll expect to have a firm date of when the fumigation will take place," Mrs. Krathwohl said. "We are obligated to let the community know."
The Brentwood facility has been closed since October, when it sorted two anthrax-tainted letters that later were opened inside the Hart Senate Office Building. Chlorine dioxide was used to kill anthrax in the Hart building in December.
A mail-processing facility near Trenton, N.J., where the contaminated letters were mailed, also remains closed. The Postal Service has said the center will be fumigated after Brentwood.
Earlier tests determined chlorine dioxide is capable of reaching a high enough concentration inside Brentwood to kill anthrax.
On July 29, technicians pumped 5 pounds of it into a 29,000-cubic-foot section of Brentwood secured with a tent-like structure over three mail-sorting machines.
In addition to the two Brentwood workers, three other persons died from inhalation anthrax last fall and 13 persons were sickened in the anthrax attacks that also affected residents of Florida and New York.
The FBI continues to investigate who sent the anthrax letters, although no suspects have been named and no arrests have been made.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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