Postal operations were curtailed, and six mail room employees were decontaminated, at Camp Zama, Japan, on Monday after a powdery substance was detected in a bundle of incoming mail.
Military police and emergency response teams were dispatched to the Zama community mail facility in Bldg. 383 around noon after a postal worker discovered the substance, said Zama spokesman Maj. Randy Cephus.
“As a precaution we also ordered the closure of postal facilities at the New Sanno hotel, and at the Stars and Stripes building,” he said.
Cephus could not immediately confirm if the postal worker who discovered the substance was wearing rubber gloves at the time.
“Only one worker came into contact with the bundle containing the substance,” he added.
A hazardous materials team operated by the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine, Pacific, based at Zama, performed decontamination of postal workers.
The three U.S. civilians and three Japanese workers were decontaminated on the scene; none required hospital treatment.
“Initial observations showed no indication of any adverse symptoms among the postal workers,” Cephus added.
Cephus said at least one of the postal workers included a Japanese civilian employee. He could not confirm if the remaining workers were military.
Meanwhile, all postal operations at the facility have been suspended, he said, pending an investigation by the Army Criminal Investigation Division.
Cephus said the Kanagawa prefectural police dispatched investigators who took a sample of the substance to an off-post laboratory for analysis. Results of that analysis are expected in a few days.
“They took a sample as a matter of establishing a chain of custody for the substance,” he said. “Having it analyzed locally is more expedient.”
Another sample of the substance will be sent for analysis to the Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.
The postal facility was cordoned off with yellow crime scene tape and the Zama bowling center, an 18-lane facility in a building adjacent to the mail room, was also closed.
Streets cordoned off in the vicinity of the mail facility include East 1st Avenue and E Street, and Third Avenue and E Street.
Cephus said the origin of the bundle containing the substance was not immediately known.
“We do know it was inbound to the facility,” he said.
Postal workers at the mail facility were in the process of breaking down bundles of incoming mail for eventual distribution to individual mail boxes.
Cephus said he would not speculate if Monday’s incident was related to the discovery of a suspicious substance detected last month at the Atsugi Naval Air Facility post office.
He said he did not know how long the Zama mail facility will be closed.