- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 16, 2003

The U.S. Postal Service said samples from a mail facility for federal offices tested negative for anthrax exposure yesterday after a suspected anthrax-tainted letter was found at the Federal Reserve earlier this month.
"It is an essential mathematical certainty that we do not have a contamination," said Thomas Day, vice president of engineering for the postal service.
The mail-processing facility on V Street NE was reopened last night, but there was no information about where the anthrax spores found at the Federal Reserve came from.
Postal service technicians worked through the night Tuesday and into yesterday morning collecting 86 samples from the V Street facility after a letter sorted at the Federal Reserve tested positive twice for anthrax exposure. The V Street facility processes all first-class mail for the federal government and does not handle residential mail.
The postal service finished testing the samples yesterday to ensure that the anthrax-tainted mail detected at the Federal Reserve had not contaminated the building.
The Federal Reserve, which tests its mail in a trailer before allowing it into the headquarters on Constitution Avenue, first detected a "potential positive" trace of anthrax in its mail on Jan. 3, and sent the mail to a laboratory for more testing.
Tests showed a "preliminary positive" indication of anthrax. On Tuesday, the Federal Reserve alerted the U.S. Postal Service, which opted to close the V Street facility and test samples from mail-sorting machinery, computer screens and light fixtures in the building.
"Based upon what we got, there was enough concern to say, 'We need to check,'" Mr. Day said. "Every possible location where a mail piece going to the Federal Reserve might have been handled, we took a sample."
The letter that tested positive has been sent to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, where it will be tested for anthrax contamination. Mr. Day said the postal service will know the results of that test "in the next few days."
Mr. Day said the timeliness with which the Federal Reserve notified the postal service of the positive anthrax test "is probably something that could be explored."
The Federal Reserve and the postal service must determine "which piece of mail this came from," Mr. Day said of the preliminary positive test result. "We need to go back and track where it came from, where it went through, and go back and do testing in all those facilities."
In October 2001, two anthrax-laced letters were sorted at the District's central processing center on Brentwood Road NE and later opened in the Hart Senate Office Building. Five persons nationwide, including two Brentwood postal workers, died of inhalation anthrax. No suspects have been identified in the case.
The Brentwood facility, which has been closed since October 2001, recently underwent a decontamination procedure that postal officials described as a success. The Environmental Protection Agency is examining the decontamination results. The Hart building was decontaminated last year.


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