Suspicious powder shuts down office

Suspicious powder shuts down office

MARTINSBURG – The Dunn Building was evacuated for a little more than an hour Friday morning after a county employee found a white powdery substance in an envelope addressed to the Berkeley County Fire Board.

Homeland Security Director Steve Allen said the substance was tested and found to be a dextrose-based sweetener, similar to a commercial brand like Sweet’N Low.

It posed no hazard to the employee who handled the envelope, Allen said.

Samples of the substance have been forwarded to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for additional analysis "to verify what we found in our field test," he said.

In addition to talking to FBI representatives, Allen said he also spoke with a postal inspector for the state, which was necessary since the problematic envelope was delivered through the mail.

Engine 90 hazardous material technicians used West Virginia Regional Response Team equipment to test the substance, Allen said.

Martinsburg City Police also were on the scene and participated in the investigation, which is ongoing.

County Commissioner Bill Stubblefield said the building was evacuated from about 8:10 to 9:30 a.m.

At the time the problem was discovered, the building’s ventilation system was shut down to prevent the spread of any possible airborne contaminants, Stubblefield said.

Evacuating the building – even as a precautionary measure – was the right thing to do, according to Stubblefield, who also praised the Fire Board employee’s action.

"After they saw the white powder, they contacted law enforcement – and that was also good thinking," he said.

All of the county’s facilities – except the assessor and tax offices – were open when the building was shut down, Stubblefield said.

Some Blue Ridge Community and Technical College students also were present at the time of the incident because the new school year begins soon, he said.

"Overall, it was a very efficient and rapid response to what could have possibly been a much worse situation. But fortunately that didn’t materialize," Stubblefield said.

Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to contact the City Police at 304-264-2100.