Anthrax detection system unveiled

Written By Abigail Chin
October 8th,2004 Staff Writer

The Denver Mail Processing Center debuted its new anthrax detection system to the public Thursday.

The Denver facility is the first postal facility in the 15-state Western region to install the Biohazard Detection System, or BDS.

The system was implemented in response to letters containing anthrax that were found in postal facilities in October 2001.

"When that happened, we had never had a biological threat to the mail system," spokesman Al DeSarro said. The equipment was installed to "safeguard the mail and protect the public and our employees."

BDS collects air samples from letters flowing down a conveyor belt that sorts 33,000 pieces of mail per hour. The air is mixed with sterile water and automatically tested for DNA matches to anthrax.

Should the deadly pathogen be detected, an emergency plan would be implemented, including a decontamination kit for every employee containing booties, a large robe and duct tape to make the robe fit snugly.

The Postal Service said it plans to update the technology to detect other pathogens as research is completed.

"At least we have something," employee Ernie Romero said.

The system costs nearly $3,000 per day to run, part of which the Department of Homeland Security pays.