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Published: Sunday, 10/28/2001

1st mail sent to Lima negative

LIMA, Ohio - Field tests performed here yesterday on the first three tractor-trailers of mail to arrive from Washington did not reveal any signs of anthrax, although officials plan to hold off decontaminating the contents of those trailers for days as a precaution.

But that isn't expected to stop Lima's Titan Scan Technologies facility from decontaminating its first batch of Washington mail today.

That's because a fourth tractor-trailer containing letters and parcels from the nation's capital was scheduled to arrive late last night or early this morning. Provided there are no signs of torn bags, the contents of that trailer likely will be irradiated late this morning, with successive shipments treated about once every eight hours, Russ Decker, Allen County emergency management director, said.

Titan Scan, which uses electron beams to sterilize medical devices, is under a temporary contract to irradiate up to 45 tractor-trailers of Washington-bound mail. It was hired in response to anthrax poisoning that killed two postal workers from Washington's Brentwood facility.

The Lima facility is one of three of its kind in the country, with the other two much farther away from Washington in San Diego and Denver.

Officials expressed concern after realizing the first tractor-trailer, which arrived in Lima late Thursday night, had a torn mail bag.

Field tests performed on that truck and the next two that arrived were negative. The field tests are considered to be 97 percent effective, but officials are awaiting final results from an Ohio Department of Health laboratory in Columbus before taking the next step, Mr. Decker said.

The trucks were sterilized with a 10-percent bleach solution, he said. As an extra precaution, postal officials have brought in teams trained in handling hazardous materials to repackage mail sent on all three of those trucks. That task is expected to take days to complete, Mr. Decker said.

The mail from each of those three trailers is being repackaged because they were shipped in a similar manner. Officials do not want to take the chance of possibly exposing someone to anthrax if another mail bag has torn, Mr. Decker said.

He said they believe the bag on the first truck tore because of how the load shifted en route from Washington. The fourth tractor-trailer, and each subsequent shipment, will be packaged differently to avoid that.



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