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TX office decontaminated

BY SUSAN KIM | McALLEN, Tex. | August 20, 2002

"The substance was not anthrax and no hazardous material was identified."

—Lt. Rene Alaniz

Seventy people were decontaminated Tuesday by chemical remediation response teams after a suspicious white powder was sent in a package to a Hotels.com office building in McAllen, Tex.

Four people from the building were initially taken to the hospital complaining of skin irritation, said Lt. Rene Alaniz of the McAllen fire department. They were released after examination.

Investigators found no chemicals or harmful airborne particles in the building, he added. "The substance was not anthrax and no hazardous material was identified."

The incident appeared to be contained in the Hotels.com office building.

U.S. Postal Service investigators were still examining the package Tuesday afternoon.

Alaniz said the chemical remediation teams did find traces of raw sewage in the building, likely left over from some plumbing work earlier this week.

Some local clergy reported they were aware of the situation but had not learned of any counseling or spiritual care needs related to the incident. "Officials seemed to have contained the problem but I don't know if counseling needs have been met," said the Rev. Joe Gerault, associate pastor of Calvary Baptist Church.

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