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RESPONSE TO TERROR

Congress Will Get Mail Again

Cleanup: Offices affected by anthrax-laced letter will be fumigated. The reopening of Senate building is weeks away.

November 28, 2001|NICK ANDERSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — Mail delivery to Congress, shut down after the anthrax scare hit Capitol Hill in mid-October, is expected to resume this week, officials said Tuesday.

Also, the offices of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) are to be fumigated this weekend to kill dangerous spores scattered there via an anthrax-laced letter.

But the Hart Senate Office Building, home to Daschle and 49 other senators, is still weeks away from reopening, according to the Environmental Protection Agency and the Capitol Police.

The disruption of the congressional mail system and closure of critical offices have posed major logistical challenges for lawmakers since the letter to Daschle was opened Oct. 15. Twenty-eight aides and police officers were found to have been exposed to anthrax.

Police Lt. Dan Nichols, announcing the resumption of mail service, said it would take three to four weeks to eliminate the backlog of nondelivered letters and packages. The mail has been sanitized through irradiation.

Nichols also said that future mail to lawmakers would be irradiated and that additional precautions would be taken before it reaches lawmakers. He said the irradiation process could slow delivery, on average, by a week. "We are taking extraordinary measures to ensure the integrity of our mail system," Nichols told reporters.

Richard Rupert, who is coordinating cleanup of the Hart building for the EPA, said Daschle's two-story suite would be filled with chlorine dioxide gas for 12 to 18 hours in an attempt to decontaminate the office. Other contaminated spots in the building are being treated with a liquid bleach and disinfecting foam. Cleanup crews are also using a high-tech vacuum to pick up some spores.

Rupert estimated that the building--the largest Senate office complex--would reopen sometime in December.

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