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 You are in: Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs: Press Relations Office > Press Releases (Other) > 2002 > December
Fact Sheet
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
December 16, 2002


Decontamination of Sterling Mail Facility

In October 2001, a State Department contract employee working at the Sterling Mail Facility was diagnosed with inhalation anthrax and admitted to the hospital. We immediately closed the facility and it remains closed to date. Following environmental testing conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of State and our contractors in October and November 2001, anthrax contamination was found. Over the past several months, we have taken a very deliberate and collaborative approach to developing plans for decontamination of the facility. In taking this determined approach, we have been able to take into account lessons learned from the clean-up of the Hart Senate Office Building and the on-going Brentwood decontamination effort.

  • The first priority is to ensure the health and safety of employees, the community, and those who are performing the decontamination work. Our intent is to decontaminate, renovate and re-occupy this facility.
  • The Department of State established a Project Team, comprised of experts from federal and local government agencies and private industry, to safely and effectively manage this complicated anthrax decontamination effort.
  • Working closely with experts from such federal, state and local government agencies as EPA, CDC/NIOSH, CDC/NCID, OSHA, the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, the Virginia Department of Health and Loudoun County emergency preparedness personnel, as well as others, we developed plans for the removal of building contents, a fumigation plan and post-decontamination environmental sampling.
  • The US Army Corps of Engineers Rapid Response Program (USACE) was selected to perform the decontamination based upon their expertise in this field. All work is being accomplished in accordance with federal, state, and local government requirements.
  • We are taking a conservative approach to decontaminating this facility. In general terms, our strategy is to dispose of as much of the contents of the building as possible, thereby significantly reducing the exposed surface area for fumigation. This effort is currently underway.

  • We will then clean selected hot spots and other areas of the building with a chlorine solution, which is effective in killing anthrax spores. Finally, the entire building is to be fumigated. Although we do not have a final decision yet on the chemicals to be used in the fumigation process, it is tentatively scheduled for summer 2003.

  • Extensive environmental testing will be conducted throughout the decontamination project.

  • Following decontamination, an Environmental Clearance Committee, comprised of public health officials and members of employee groups and the community, will make recommendations to the Department of State on the appropriateness of re-occupancy of the facility.
  • We will continue to take every necessary precaution to ensure the safety of employees and the community throughout this decontamination effort.

Released on December 16, 2002

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