Postal center tests biohazard detection system

Reginal wire
Sunday, November 21, 2004

November 21, 2004, 6:28 PM EST

WALLINGFORD, Conn. -- The regional postal center that processed anthrax-contaminated mail three years ago began testing its new biological detection system.

An elderly Oxford woman was one of five people nationally who died after anthrax exposure. Investigators believe 94-year-old Ottilie Lundgred died after opening her anthrax-contaminated mail that passed through the Wallingford distribution center.

Workers on Saturday tested the center's new biohazard detection system with a drill. The drill simulated the activiation of the center's alarm system in the event that a biological agent was found.

A machine tests for hazardous materials in mail by taking air samples every 45 seconds. The system, retrofitted to existing mail sorting equipment, is currently in several postal facilities across the country, including Boston.

When the alarms sounded, emergency responders, including local police and fire groups as well as the state departments of Environmental Protection and Public Health, were notified. Decontamination units also would be called up from local storage and an on-site medical facility would be set up.

In the event that a contaminated piece of mail left the building, trucks would automatically be recalled.

"There may be some inconvenience to the public when, and if, the BDS alarm goes off," Wallingford police Lieutenant Roger Hart said.

The Wallinford center was the first postal facility in the state to get the detection system.

The person or persons who mailed the anthrax-tainted letters have not been caught.