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Pentagon Officials Retrieving Mail From Distribution Points

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 15, 2005 – Pentagon officials are working to collect an estimated 8,000 pieces of mail that passed through the building's mail-processing facility between March 10 and 14.

The test that indicated a preliminary positive for anthrax bacteria March 14 was done on a sample collected March 10 from the Pentagon's Remote Delivery Facility, Pentagon spokesman Glenn Flood said. From there, the mail was taken to 12 distribution nodes throughout the Pentagon. It now is being moved back to a designated area in the RDF, Flood said.

Officials believe it "highly unlikely" that any mail that passed through the RDF during the specified timeframe has been delivered to individual offices, he said.

He could not, however, confirm whether any mail from that timeframe moved through the RDF and to the Skyline office complex, in nearby Falls Church, Va., where a separate biological alarm indicated the presence of anthrax there March 14. Local officials shut down three buildings leased by the Defense Department after an alarm sounded in one building there.

So far individual test results on swabs taken from 263 people who may have passed through the Pentagon facility in the specified timeframe are all negative for exposure to anthrax, Flood said. He explained that about 200 people work in the facility, and the others are people who may have come in contact with the area.

Officials hope to reopen at least part of the delivery facility - which is not in, but next to - the Pentagon building, within the next day or so. "The goal is to get the RDF up and running as soon as possible," Flood said.

Mail-processing operations take up only about 10 percent of the 200,000-square-foot facility. One possibility is to cordon off the mail-sorting areas for further testing and investigation and reopen the rest of the facility.

Another possibility officials are considering is to move the facility's delivery-screening function to another location temporarily.

Flood said it's important to resume some of that function because it's not just mail that's being affected. All deliveries to the Pentagon -- including office and cleaning supplies and food for the building's eateries - have been halted for the time being.

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