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V.I. OFFICIALS TAKE ANTHRAX SCARES SERIOUSLY

Oct. 16, 2001 – Police evacuated the St. Thomas Federal Credit Union Tuesday after workers received two envelopes containing an unknown powdery substance. Employees were scared the material was anthrax.
"The envelopes came in the mail," Police Chief Jose Garcia said.
The two envelopes did not have return addresses, and it was difficult to read the postmarks, Deputy Police Chief Theodore Carty said.
Workers could feel the gritty powder inside, and immediately contacted police, he said.
The incident could well be a hoax, but officials were not taking any chances.
No one could be reached at the Federal Credit Union for comment.
The Federal Credit Union incident comes on the heels of a scare Monday at Chase Bank's waterfront office, where a white dust was discovered on the floor of an employee bathroom. Health Department spokesman Lee Vanterpool said it was grout from a ceiling tile.
Police and staff from the Health Department's Environmental Health Division responded to the call.
Chase Bank spokeswoman Kristen Batteria said that even though the powder turned out to be only dust, bank employees did the right thing by calling for help.
"It's better to err on the side of caution," she said from the bank's New York office.
In the Federal Credit Union case, a police hazardous materials team went to the building to secure the two envelopes. Garcia said the calls came in around 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
The envelopes were sealed and first taken to the police evidence room, then turned over to Health Department officials, said Harold Baker, the director of the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency.
They will be sent by Wednesday to laboratories at the Centers for Disease Control to test for anthrax, Vanterpool said.
"We think that 99 percent of these things are going to be hoaxes. These nuts are going to be coming out of the woodwork. But we have to be prepared for the real thing," he said.
Vanterpool did not know yet if any of the credit union employees would need to be tested for exposure to anthrax. Health officials were waiting for a shipment of testing kits to arrive in the territory, he added.
He said the department does not have protective gear, but it has been ordered.
"This is a new experience for us," he said.
The scare came in the wake of several reports of anthrax exposures in Florida, New York, Nevada and Washington, D.C.
Officials from the police, fire and health departments, along with the FBI and other federal agencies, were working to develop a response plan in the case of an anthrax release, he said.
"I am concerned, and we're working to put a policy together," Vanterpool said. "This is top priority. We want to be perfectly prepared for this thing."
Vanterpool said he knew of no similar incidents in the territory.

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Oct. 16, 2001 – Police evacuated the St. Thomas Federal Credit Union Tuesday after workers received two envelopes containing an unknown powdery substance. Employees were scared the material was anthrax.
"The envelopes came in the mail," Police Chief Jose Garcia said.
The two envelopes did not have return addresses, and it was difficult to read the postmarks, Deputy Police Chief Theodore Carty said.
Workers could feel the gritty powder inside, and immediately contacted police, he said.
The incident could well be a hoax, but officials were not taking any chances.
No one could be reached at the Federal Credit Union for comment.
The Federal Credit Union incident comes on the heels of a scare Monday at Chase Bank's waterfront office, where a white dust was discovered on the floor of an employee bathroom. Health Department spokesman Lee Vanterpool said it was grout from a ceiling tile.
Police and staff from the Health Department's Environmental Health Division responded to the call.
Chase Bank spokeswoman Kristen Batteria said that even though the powder turned out to be only dust, bank employees did the right thing by calling for help.
"It's better to err on the side of caution," she said from the bank's New York office.
In the Federal Credit Union case, a police hazardous materials team went to the building to secure the two envelopes. Garcia said the calls came in around 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
The envelopes were sealed and first taken to the police evidence room, then turned over to Health Department officials, said Harold Baker, the director of the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency.
They will be sent by Wednesday to laboratories at the Centers for Disease Control to test for anthrax, Vanterpool said.
"We think that 99 percent of these things are going to be hoaxes. These nuts are going to be coming out of the woodwork. But we have to be prepared for the real thing," he said.
Vanterpool did not know yet if any of the credit union employees would need to be tested for exposure to anthrax. Health officials were waiting for a shipment of testing kits to arrive in the territory, he added.
He said the department does not have protective gear, but it has been ordered.
"This is a new experience for us," he said.
The scare came in the wake of several reports of anthrax exposures in Florida, New York, Nevada and Washington, D.C.
Officials from the police, fire and health departments, along with the FBI and other federal agencies, were working to develop a response plan in the case of an anthrax release, he said.
"I am concerned, and we're working to put a policy together," Vanterpool said. "This is top priority. We want to be perfectly prepared for this thing."
Vanterpool said he knew of no similar incidents in the territory.