Anthrax scare locks down Federal Courthouse - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Anthrax scare locks down Federal Courthouse

July 16, 2007

Albany --    Employees were kept inside in a secure area while Hazardous Material crews suited up and went to test the substance found in the C. B. King Federal Courthouse.    The results of those test haven't been made public.     

The courthouse is at the corner of West Broad Avenue and Washington Street.  Federal Marshals at the Courthouse quickly isolated the suspicious envelope as when it was found.            

It was around 11:30 AM that crews got the initial call for the suspicious substance found in a letter that came through the U.S. Post office to the Federal Courthouse.      

We're not sure who that letter was addressed to or who opened it, just that security here did the right thing quickly isolating that package.        

Once the substance was discovered crews HAZMAT and Fire officials quickly responded.       Around 1:00, four HAZMAT trained fire fighters suited up in level B suits to enter the building to test the suspicious substance.      

It took crews about an hour inside to complete the two tests.  The substance is dissolved in water then run through a portable lab to test for anthrax.  

"What they've got is small granules and they're clear in nature, which is totally different from what we're taught anthrax will be," Deputy Chief David Eddins of the Albany Fire Department.

The results of those tests were passed on to federal authorities who are in charge of this investigation.       An inspector from the Postal Service in Atlanta was also brought down to perform several tests on the substance to determine exactly what it is.     

There were about 30 employees inside the courthouse when this incident happened this morning.  At this hour, crews are still trying to determine what this substance might have been and who sent it to the federal courthouse.

Federal Courthouse employees watched from third story windows as Hazardous Material crews on the street prepared to enter their building around 1:00.

"Security here at the federal courthouse, with their protocol have gone ahead and put people on notice and have locked them down pretty much inside confined, they're away from it," said AFD Deputy Chief David Eddins.

On the first floor a regulation envelope was secured inside a plexi-glass box with access gloves.  The envelope opened by a courthouse employee contained clear crystal granules, deemed suspicous.

"The crews here at the federal courthouse did the right thing once they found that it was a suspicious item inside there," Eddins said. 

HazMat Crews in Level 2 suits spent about an hour inside the building, performing two tests on the substance to ensure their results and determine if the substance was anthrax.

"Feel pretty sure that what we're seeing now is not going to be that but just so we're on the safe side we're going to run tests on it," Eddins said.

Additional crews from the U.S. Postal Service in Atlanta and a federal crew also preformed tests on the substance to determine what it might be.

"It's just your standard envelope is what it come through, we're checking with the Post Office because they have equipment that also should be able to detect anything like that come through," Eddins said.

There had been a court session scheduled for this afternoon, but that was obviously canceled today.     

The C. B. King Federal Courthouse houses the offices of District Court, Bankruptcy Court, the U. S. Clerk of Court, the U. S.  Marshal's office, U. S.  Probation, and the U. S.  Attorney's office.

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