Anthrax Scare Hits NJ U

By By U Wire

By U Wire

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J.?Panic struck Rutgers University on Monday morning as University, city and county authorities shuttered the Food Science Building on the Cook campus after workers discovered a mysterious powder inside an envelope mailed to a University employee.

After administering decontamination procedures to those handling the envelope, authorities transported the substance to a state laboratory in Trenton for analysis and urged calm as rumors of a possible anthrax attack swept the campus.

Community service officers guarded the desolate building Monday as the late-afternoon breeze fluttered the yellow caution tape enclosing it. 0

Reopening Food Science?which houses the Center for Advanced Food Technology and classroom space?is contingent upon approval from the state Department of Health and Senior Services, Rutgers University Police Department Chief Anthony Murphy said. Health department spokesman Dave Jamieson said testing the powder for toxic agents would continue until the end of business today.

?We?re testing whatever caused the incident,? Jamieson said. ?We?ll test to see if there?s any reason to be concerned. Then people will be tested, but that’s preliminary until we see the results.?

Murphy confirmed the envelope was sent to a specific University employee whom he declined to identify, saying only that the package ?was addressed to someone who has an office in the building.? He would not comment on any precautionary measures the RUPD has advised the employee to take, although he confirmed the RUPD is in contact with the employee.

Additionally, Murphy declined to release the postmark, indicating from where the letter was mailed. The police chief said his department has enlisted the help of the FBI, the state police and the county prosecutor?s office to help in the ongoing investigation?including the establishment of a motive to potentially poison the particular University employee and the campus population.

But the chief emphasized the importance of composure.

?We?re using a lot of precaution,? Murphy said. ?We don?t want to be alarmist.?

Workers at Food Science immediately summoned authorities after finding the unfamiliar powder at 11:30 a.m. Monday. The workers handling the substance took showers to minimize risk of exposure, then were rushed to an area health-care facility that Murphy would not identify. The RUPD, the Hazardous Materials Unit of the Middlesex County Health Department, the New Brunswick Police Department and Rutgers Emergency Services cleared about 150 students, faculty and staff out of the building, stationing the evacuees on the nearby lawn.

While authorities did not administer immediate medical care, the RUPD collected the names and contact information of those in the building at the time of the exposure for notification as the state health department determines appropriate.

Murphy said the exposure did not compromise the safety of the area surrounding the building. Buses will continue to shuttle students past Food Science despite its locked doors.

?We?re exercising prudence in investigating? the case, Murphy said. ?That?s for the safety of our entire community.?