No threat from powder reported in envelope

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staff, Gazette
Saturday, May 4, 2013

— An envelope that caused a hazardous materials scare and prompted the evacuation of a Janesville charter school Friday morning posed no threat, police said.

The Rock County Hazardous Materials Response Team was dispatched at 10:17 a.m. to Arrow Park, 1350 N. Parker Drive, after an employee reported seeing a powder come out of an envelope.

The employee works in the mail processing room of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Services on the second floor of the building, which also houses TAGOS Leadership Academy. The academy was evacuated.

Investigators could not find any powder, however, and tests of the envelope and letter found nothing suspicious, Janesville police Deputy Chief John Olsen said.

“There wasn’t anything to indicate any credible threat,” Olsen said. “All indications are that (the letter) was for normal business.”

Hewlett Packard Enterprise Services processes about 1,000 pieces of mail per day. The suspicious envelope did not appear to be out of the ordinary before it was opened, police said.

Authorities have sent the letter to the Wisconsin State Crime Lab and are following up with its sender, Olsen said.

The incident is not being treated as a criminal matter, he said.

Two workers reported irritation and dizziness after being exposed to the letter and were sent to Mercy Hospital and Trauma Center in Janesville, Olsen said. Three other employees who were in the room also were taken to Mercy, Olsen said.

Those symptoms subsided before the workers reached the hospital, Olsen said, and no one needed medical treatment.

Authorities reopened the building after tests came back negative, Olsen said.

The TAGOS Leadership Academy is located downstairs from where the incident occurred.

TAGOS was evacuated and students were bused to Franklin Middle School, district spokesman Brett Berg said. No one from the school reported any illness or injury.

Janesville police and fire crews were at Arrow Park Friday morning and afternoon.

Squad cars and police trailers were parked on either side of the two-story building where the incident occurred, which sits behind the larger, main Arrow Park building. That facility was not affected by the scare, police said.

At one point Friday afternoon, authorities in hazardous materials suits could be seen with police and fire officials near the building.

The school district’s TATE Center is in the same building but was not occupied at the time, Berg said.

The Arrow Park incident is similar to an envelope scare April 18 at the Eclipse Center in Beloit, where a worker at the Beloit Area Community Health Center reported finding powder in an envelope. As a precaution, 15 people were decontaminated and taken to local hospitals, and 56 others were put under quarantine in the building.

Beloit police Capt. Vince Sciame said Friday that Beloit investigators April 18 weren’t able to find a powder in the health center envelope.

“The woman told us there was a powder. I don’t believe we were ever able to find anything after that. There may have been a powder, but we weren’t able to find anything in subsequent tests,” Sciame said.

Last updated: 10:40 am Tuesday, July 2, 2013

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