Local News

Sharpsburg Post Office evacuated after hazmat scare

Posted August 20, 2008 3:03 p.m. EDT
Updated August 20, 2008 10:54 p.m. EDT

— The Sharpsburg Post Office was evacuated Wednesday afternoon after an odor was detected in the lobby, according to Enloa Rice, of the U.S. Postal Service.

The odor was noticed around 1 p.m., Sharpsburg Police Chief Craig Bissette said.

Police officer Willie Hopkins was the first to respond to the scene. He said he found a woman in pain on the ground outside and when he took a breath, he said, he felt ill too.

"Your face burns, your eyes water, your nose runs,” Hopkins said.

A hazmat crew remained outside of the building until about 7:30 p.m. All tests came back negative for chemical exposure, Bissette said.

It is unknown what caused the odor, but there was no suspected link between the event and the mail service.

"It is quite scary to think about it,” Avis Harrington, who works near the post office, said.

Hazmat officials on the scene felt the incident may have resulted from an inadvertent chemical exposure, which was acute and dissipated prior to detection efforts, Bissette said.

Officials have ruled out the chemical exposure's being intentional or part of any assault, Bissette said.

About 10 people were inside the building when the odor was noticed. Emergency workers decontaminated all of them.

Tywanna Barnes' 69-year-old mother was among them.

"They take you through several tents, that are a scrubbing and showering process,” she said.

After decontamination, the sick were transported a nearby hospital.

Anyone who was in the post office around 1 p.m. and feels they may have been exposed should go to Nash General Hospital, Bissette said.

U.S. 301 in Nash County in Sharpsburg was closed for several hours in both directions because of the incident, according to the N.C. Department of Transportation.

Sharpsburg police and the U.S. Postal Service were investigating. The building is scheduled to reopen Thursday.

Anyone with information about the incident should contact the Sharpsburg Police Department at 252-977-0004.