Powder closes mailroom
Stars and Stripes May 7, 2004
WüRZBURG, Germany — The leak of an unidentified white powder Wednesday from a package at Leighton Barracks has forced the temporary closure of the community mailroom there, base authorities said.
Ron Smith, postal supervisor for the 417th Base Support Battalion, said the problem began about 1 p.m. after a woman picked up a package. She unwrapped the package — which she had purchased from a distributor in Shelbyville, Ind., on eBay — in her car and found it held a plastic bag containing a white powder besides the item she ordered.
Smith said she brought the package back inside to show to the postal crew and ask what she should do.
“It was a legitimate package from everything we know,” said Don Klinger, a spokesman for the Würzburg-based 98th Area Support Group. “But it contained a suspicious substance, so we took appropriate action.”
Smith said the postal workers immediately locked the doors and called for a hazardous-materials team. German soldiers barricaded the parking lot while the white-suited team decontaminated the seven people — five postal workers and two customers — who were in the mailroom when the incident happened.
Smith said initial tests on the mailroom showed no sign of biological hazards such as anthrax, but the facility is being closed until after a German laboratory in Munich completes testing on the white powder.
“It seems like it may be OK, but we won’t know until Saturday,” Smith said.
In the meantime, he said, the 417th BSB has set up a temporary mailroom in Room 9 of Building 15, just across the parking lot. If test results confirm the powder was benign, operations will resume in the original building on Monday.
Klinger said this was the first such incident in the 98th ASG since 2001, when the Leighton mailroom was briefly shut down under similar circumstances during the anthrax attacks that killed five people in the United States.
He also said there appeared to be no connection to another scare Wednesday at Tompkins Barracks in Schwetzingen.