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RESPONSE TO TERROR

New Plan in Works for Hart Building

Anthrax: A revised approach to cleaning up contamination could delay the reopening of Senate offices for at least a week.

November 07, 2001|NICK ANDERSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) announced a new plan Tuesday to clean up anthrax contamination at the Hart Senate Office Building after experts raised questions about a proposal to sterilize the building with chlorine dioxide gas.

The building, where half the Senate keeps offices, has been closed since shortly after a Daschle aide opened an anthrax-tainted letter Oct. 15.

The incident exposed 28 congressional aides and Capitol police officers to the deadly spores; they and others in the building at the time are taking antibiotics to guard against infection.

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency recommended sealing off the entire million-square-foot complex and filling it with bacteria-neutralizing gas. Senate leaders signed off on the idea in hopes of reopening the building by next Tuesday.

But some experts concluded that that approach might not work in such a large building, Daschle said.

The revised plan is to spray cleansing foam in some contaminated zones--including a freight elevator and a stairwell--and to use gas in three sealed-off areas: the ventilation system and the fifth- and sixth-floor suites kept by Daschle and Sen. Russell D. Feingold (D-Wis.).

The entire building would then be retested.

Daschle said the revision could delay the reopening by at least a week.

"We just hope we can get the job done as quickly and safely as possible," he told reporters.

Congressional leaders this week reopened most of the Longworth and Ford House office buildings, where traces of anthrax were found after the incident in the Hart building.

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