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State Department to Fumigate Mail Facility

The State Department gave an update on the cleanup project of the Sterling Mail Facility, which has been closed and sealed since last year. A State Department employee was diagnosed with inhalation anthrax in October 2001 and since then anthrax contamination was found in the facility.

The State Department began developing a plan to decontaminate the facility and established a project team of experts from federal, state and county government agencies and the private industry to manage the effort.

"Our focus was to take care of employees and to make sure the facility started up again," said Cedric Dumont, director of medical services for the U.S. Department of State and an agency safety health officer.

The State Department's decontamination plans involve removing and cleaning mail and employee belongings and disposing of several contents of the building to reduce the exposed surface areas for fumigation. The department plans to clean areas of the building with a chlorine solution to kill anthrax spores, then fumigate the entire building as tentatively scheduled in summer 2003. At that point, the Environmental Clearance Committee, which consists of public health officials and others who are monitoring the decontamination process, will determine whether the facility is safe for re-occupancy.

When the facility is determined safe, the State Department plans to renovate the building with new ventilation to protect employees and to ease cleaning of the facility if a future incident occurs.