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Lawmakers: Powder sent to Alaska offices not harmful

Lawmakers: Powder sent to Alaska offices not harmful

August 16th, 2011 by DAN JOLING, Associated Press in News

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - The FBI has determined a white powder contained in packages sent to members of Alaska's congressional delegation was not a hazardous substance but a sample of concrete material, according to two of the lawmakers.

The offices of Alaska's two U.S. senators and congressman had received suspicious packages through the mail Monday, prompting the evacuation of the federal building in Fairbanks and the closure of the sixth floor of an Anchorage office building, authorities said.

At least two of the packages contained a white powder. But by late Monday, Sen. Mark Begich and Rep. Don Young had issued statements saying the FBI had told them the powder was not harmful.

It remained unclear Tuesday why the concrete mixture was mailed to the lawmakers' offices, but a statement from Begich spokeswoman Julie Hasquet cited the FBI in saying "the sender had no criminal intent."

The packages were received in the Fairbanks offices of Begich and Sen. Lisa Murkowski and at the Anchorage office of Rep. Don Young. The incidents were first reported by the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

Telephone messages left with the FBI and the Anchorage Fire Department about the concrete mixture weren't immediately returned and the Department of Justice couldn't immediately confirm that the powder was a concrete mixture.

Hasquet earlier said that a staff member in Fairbanks began to open a box sent by priority and powder spilled out. The staffer was following office procedure by opening the box in a plastic bag, Hasquet said.

"When she took off the tape, some white powder ... came out, enough so that it alerted her to call the security offices in the federal building in Fairbanks," she said.

The box had an Arizona return address, Hasquet said. The staffer turned over the package to the federal marshal's office, located nearby in the building.

The woman suffered no apparent injuries but was transported by ambulance for medical evaluation, assistant Fairbanks fire chief Ernie Misewicz said.

Murkowski's office in the same building received a similar package that may not have been opened. Murkowski's press office didn't return telephone messages left by The Associated Press on Monday.

In Anchorage, a suspicious package with a white substance was received by the office of Rep. Don Young, spokesman Luke Miller said in a statement by email. All three congressional members have offices in Peterson Tower in downtown Anchorage.

Anchorage Fire Department spokesman Al Tamagni referred to the Anchorage package as an envelope. The department took a call on the package just after 1 p.m. and sent over its hazardous material team, which conducted tests for radiation and acidity.

"That all turned up negative," he said.

Police and fire officials sealed off the building's sixth floor and hazardous materials responders bagged up and removed items for analysis and possible decontamination.

Begich is a Democrat. Murkowski and Young are Republicans.


Associated Press writer Mark Thiessen contributed to this story.