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Anthrax scare holds up mail

January 25, 2002

Anthrax scare holds up mail



By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

kimy@herald-mail.com

The Hagerstown Post Office suspended mail delivery for a few hours Thursday after a coarse white power, which later tested negative for anthrax, was found in a mail container.

Postmaster Keith Guerrin said the container and the mail inside were isolated in his office after a postal employee discovered the powder at around 10 a.m.

The container of mail was one of 500 typically sent each day to the Hagerstown facility from the main office in Frederick, Md., he said.

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A small quantity of the powder was found on magazines and mail in the container, he said.

From the very beginning, Guerrin didn't believe the substance was anthrax, he said.

"It looked like drywall. It was a gritty material," he said.

It isn't uncommon for pieces of drywall to fall off walls in the building, including in his office, and get crushed by machinery, he said.

When the powder gets in the air it can fall on nearby objects, Guerrin said.

While Hagerstown Fire Department and the Washington County Special Operations Team investigated, the post office stopped delivering and accepting mail from it's rear loading area.

The post office lobby remained open during the investigation and the building was not evacuated, Guerrin said.

He received the results of anthrax testing by the Washington County Health Department Thursday afternoon, he said.

Guerrin said extra carriers were working throughout the afternoon to deliver mail because of the delay.

No customers were in the building during the incident. About 85 employees were working Thursday morning.

Hagerstown Fire Department and Washington County Special Operations Team officials did not return messages Thursday afternoon.

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