- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 4, 2004

U.S. Capitol Police evacuated the Capitol yesterday after a sensor detected a possible biohazard in the Senate wing, but authorities later said it was a false alarm.

Officer Jessica Gissubel said field tests came up negative for harmful materials. The suspected hazard turned out to be some sort of industrial solvent, police said.

“No hazardous materials were found,” a Capitol Police official told Reuters news agency. Samples will be sent to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore for further testing, police said.

The sensor detected fumes in the basement of the Senate wing about 3:30 p.m. Authorities conducted tests to ensure the building was safe, Officer Gissubel said.

“We take all these situations very seriously,” she told WRC-TV (Channel 4).

Police evacuated the Capitol immediately after the fumes were detected.

For more than four hours, several officers restricted access to the building from Delaware Avenue. Authorities directed joggers, pedestrians and dog walkers to the opposite side of Constitution Avenue if they approached the Capitol while out on the unseasonably balmy winter evening.

The D.C. Fire Department dispatched its hazardous materials unit to the scene at 6 p.m., spokesman Alan Etter said.

“No injuries were reported,” he said. “We [were] just on the scene to assist [Capitol Police].”

Police allowed people to re-enter the building about 8 p.m., after the teams finished their investigation.

Congress was in recess. Officer Gissubel said tours were over for the day, and there were few people in the building.

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