The IRS office in Bellevue received an envelope that contained some white powder last week. At the same time, a similar incident took place at a courthouse in Seattle, WA. These were not the only two locations. CNN reported that there were at least 6 different locations involving various government buildings across the country that received these mysterious white powder-filled envelopes. The other places were the FBI office in Spokane, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Boise, the FBI building in Coeur d’Alene, and the FBI office in Pocatello, Idaho.
The Bellevue Fire Department rushed to the scene. Apparently, a worker opened the envelope and some white powder flew into the air. The worker who was exposed to the powder later received treatment over the incident. Two other office workers suspected of being exposed to the powder were adorned with Haz-Mat suits to prevent the possible spread of the powder on their bodies to others. They were transported to a separate medical location for evaluation and treatment. The Bellevue building was subsequently evacuated.
The powdery substance will remain in the building as tests are conducted to determine its nature. Any possible message contained in the envelope was unknown at this point. The fire department is not able to ascertain the nature of the substance so quickly as certain biological agents like Anthrax takes time and sophisticated laboratory equipment to analyze. However, if the powder is some other simple substance, then analysis and determination would be easier. But if the substance is a mixture of a biohazard and another innocuous powder then it would require more professional analysis at a crime lab to determine it.
Analysis and testing of the powder in Bellevue are to be carried out by the Eastside Hazardous Materials Response Team. The team will conduct the initial tests in the building before sending a sample of the substance to a crime lab in Shoreline. Agents from the FBI and Homeland Security were also at the scene at Bellevue to run initial investigations.
The four-story building that houses the Bellevue IRS office covers an area of 40,000 square feet of office space. Besides the IRS, the Frontier Bank also uses the building. The IRS is situated on the third floor. One floor at the complex is mostly vacant.
On the other hand, the federal courthouse building in Seattle was not evacuated, save for the basement mailroom that was quarantined.