State tests find BWI mail center free of anthrax

Six other facilities also being checked for contamination

October 30, 2001|By Johnathon E. Briggs | Johnathon E. Briggs,SUN STAFF

Samples collected at an express mail center in Linthicum have been found to be free of anthrax, state environmental officials said yesterday. But authorities said mailroom facilities at six federal office buildings in Anne Arundel County are being tested for the potentially deadly bacteria.

U.S. Postal Service officials said the test results on the mail facility near Baltimore-Washington International Airport are a promising sign, but added that the facility will not reopen until results of environmental samples taken by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are received.

"That's been the game plan all along," Postal Service spokesman Greg Colburn said. "Hopefully we'll get those in the next day or two."

FOR THE RECORD - In yesterday's Anne Arundel edition, an article about anthrax testing incorrectly stated that mailroom employees at six federal office buildings in the county, including the Naval Academy, had been placed on antibiotics. Those employees had been advised by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to take antibiotics. The Sun regrets the error.

Anthrax contamination was suspected at the 60,000- square-foot mail center near BWI because Leroy Richmond, a worker in a Washington postal center who was hospitalized with anthrax, worked three days a week at the facility, which has been closed since Oct. 21.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening ordered state health officials to inspect the mail center last week after Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens expressed frustration that federal agencies had not shown up to evaluate the facility, which at the time had been closed for four days.

State environmental technicians swept the mail center for anthrax Thursday, not realizing that a six-member CDC team had been there 12 hours earlier.

Yesterday, state and county health officials said that mailroom employees with federal agencies that received mail from the contaminated Brentwood postal facility in Washington, including six in Anne Arundel, have been placed on antibiotics. Affected federal offices in Anne Arundel County include the Customs Service facility near BWI, the Naval Academy, and Small Business Administration and FBI offices in Annapolis, according to the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

The CDC and the Environmental Protection Agency will be involved in the testing of the federal facilities, state health officials said.

Acting on advice from the CDC, the state health department, through county health departments, has distributed antibiotics to affected federal and postal employees and workers from private mailrooms, including the SunTrust mail processing facility in Glen Burnie. County health officials said at least three other companies have asked about environmental testing for anthrax.

About 40 federal mailroom employees received information and antibiotics last weekend at a clinic set up in Annapolis by the Anne Arundel County Health Department, said department spokeswoman Evelyn Stein.

Stein said more than 200 mailroom employees have attended the clinic since it opened last week.

More than 200 workers from the BWI mail center have been tested for exposure to anthrax. Postal Service officials could not provide the results of those tests yesterday, but have said that no workers have shown signs of the illness.

The county Health Department asked mailroom employees with questions concerning anthrax precautions to call 410-222-7256.

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