Local News

Raleigh Postal Station Re-opens While Officials Await Anthrax Test Results

Posted October 24, 2001 2:56 a.m. EDT

— The Century Postal Station was closed for more than 24 hours after an envelope opened on the second floor around 9:30 a.m. Tuesday was found to contain a powdery or grainy substance.

Preliminary tests show the substance was not anthrax, but U.S. Postal workers are nevertheless concerned about their position on the front lines when it comes to dealing with this potentially deadly substance.

Plastic gloves and protective masks have become part of the routine for postal workers, but long-time employees like Barbara High say they have never seen anything like this.

High says she is satisfied that people are taking every possible precaution.

"We have a procedure in place where the employee will contact the supervisor who will then isolate the package or spill or whatever it may be," High says.

On Tuesday, the building was immediately evacuated and closed after the suspicious substance was discovered, while Haz-Mat teams secured the scene.

"The first thing they do when it goes to the state lab is actually look at the material under the microscope to see what they can see at that point. Sometimes they can rule things out by looking under the microscope, but that's not a definitive test," explains Gibbie Harris of the Wake County Health Department. "The next step is to actually plate it and to see what grows."

Right now, health workers are waiting to see if anthrax grows from the substance taken out of the building.

Meanwhile, state health officials believe it is safe for postal workers and other federal employees to return to their offices.