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Tuesday, October 24, 2006
S P E C I A L   E D I T I O N

Suspicious Envelope a Hoax, State Lab Tests Confirm

A suspicious letter, delivered to an office in Building 50 yesterday, did not contain any harmful biological agents or lethal substances. The State Health Department performed the necessary tests last night. Berkeley Lab is now reassured that no employees were endangered. Business as usual will resume today.

Berkeley Lab jointly managed Monday afternoon's incident with the combined resources of the Alameda County Fire Department, the UC Police Department, the City of Berkeley Public Health Division, the FBI, and the State Department of Health Services. An anonymous envelope containing white powder arrived in 50A-4112 yesterday around 11:30 a.m., and both that office and Building 69's mail room were isolated as a precaution. Building 69 was reopened last night, and the Building 50 office is expected to be reopened after minor clean-up by noon today. The ventilation system, which had been shut down for floors two through six as a precaution, will then be restarted.

The letter's contents were forwarded to the health department's Microbial Disease Laboratory in Richmond, where all tests for toxic substances proved negative.

The FBI, which is continuing its investigation, reported that an identical letter to the one sent to Berkeley Lab was also confiscated in Tennessee.

Berkeley Lab Director Steve Chu complimented those who responded to the incident and those who were inconvenienced by the actions taken. "In circumstances like that, we need to ensure the safety of our employees, so we took a very conservative approach to the situation," he said. "Under stressful circumstances, our emergency services personnel, the affected Berkeley Lab employees in both the 50 complex and Building 69, and our partners in the city, county and state performed admirably. We are very grateful for their professionalism."

All office administrators are reminded to report all suspicious mail to Security and to take all proper precautions when opening the mail. U.S. Postal Service advice on identifying suspicious mail can be found here.

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