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Friday, March 7, 2008

Looks like it was baby food

By James Tinley
Register Staff
— Superior Court reopened Wednesday following an hours-long lockdown Tuesday afternoon prompted by the discovery in a woman’s bathroom of a mysterious white powder that turned out to be harmless.
The powder that caused the scare was later determined to be likely nothing more than powdered baby food and bread crumbs, fire Capt. Michael McDaniel said Wednesday.
The state Department of Environmental Protection and state police were called in around 4:30 p.m. after a woman spotted the powder on an eye-level shelf while washing her hands in the women’s bathroom on the second floor, McDaniel said.
“The immediate area where the substance was located was evacuated and proper procedure was followed throughout the incident,” said Trooper Donna Tadiello, state police spokeswoman.
After the powder was found, everyone was forced to wait on the first floor and no one was allowed in or out of the building for more than an hour, McDaniel said. The court usually closes at 5 p.m. and some employees were made to wait until all emergency services personnel cleared the scene at around 7:30 p.m.
The woman who found the powder remained on the second floor with police personnel while the DEP used a portable infrared spectrometer to determine whether the substance was hazardous, authorities said.
“The field test determined the substance was not hazardous and the area was cleaned as a precaution,” DEP spokesman Dwayne Gardner said.
Gardner said the portable device that was used permits authorities to handle a scene in a way in which only a portion of a building needs to be shutdown when a suspicious substance is found. This is because a test can be done on site, rather than having a sample transported from the building for analysis, he said. Portable infrared spectrometers allow DEP inspectors to determine almost instantly whether a powder is a hazardous substance such as anthrax, Gardner said.
“These devices have become popular after anthrax scares following 9/11, and allows us to perform quick field tests,” Gardner said.
Lab results on a sample of the substance that authorities believe is powdered baby food and bread crumbs will be back in two to three days, Gardner said.


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