Agencies looking to buy mail-cleaning devices

The U.S. Postal Service and a handful of other federal agencies are negotiating to buy machines that would kill micro-organisms such as mail-borne anthrax by irradiating envelopes and packages, according to government and industry sources. The Postal Service is testing the effectiveness of irradiation, and has sent samples of mail to be irradiated to a private facility, said spokesman Gerry Kreienkamp. He said the agency wants to deploy the technology "as quickly as possible" at key mail processing facilities, but declined to say how many facilities might receive the machines. Rod Wilson, vice president of sales and marketing for BioSterile Technology, a Fort Wayne, Ind., manufacturer of irradiation equipment, says his company is "in negotiations" with the Postal Service, the Defense Department, the Secret Service and the Los Alamos National Laboratory to sell its device. Wilson met with senators Thursday to brief them about the company's products. Jim Mackin, a spokesman for the Secret Service, wouldn't say whether the agency is negotiating to buy irradiation equipment, but he said the Secret Service stays in constant contact with equipment manufacturers. The Secret Service screens and processes its mail, as well as mail destined for the White House, at a remote site, Mackin said. The Food and Drug Administration, which approves the use of irradiation to decontaminate medical devices and some foods, is "looking into what the efficacy of different kinds of irradiation would be against anthrax," according to Brad Stone, an agency spokesman. Irradiation devices emit highly energized beams of atomic particles, often in the form of x-rays and gamma rays, to disrupt the chemical structure of an organism, killing its cells. Microwaves, ozone in liquid or gas form, and ultraviolet light will also kill micro-organisms, but ultraviolet light is too weak to penetrate the surface of an envelope or package. Wilson said mail could be decontaminated by running it beneath an electron beam on a conveyor belt for 30 to 90 seconds, depending on the amount of mail being treated. BioSterile's device sells for $650,000, Wilson said, adding that while he didn't know how many machines a given agency might deploy, one would not be enough to treat all mail at a typical Postal Service center. Wilson said it would take four to eight months under BioSterile's current production schedule to have a device ready for deployment, but added that the company is going into a mass production mode. Kreienkamp said the Postal Service is evaluating X-ray and gamma ray technologies. The agency would write a new contract to buy the equipment, he said, adding that some funding would be available from a $200 million emergency spending package approved by the Postal Service Board of Governors. It's doubtful any existing government contractors sell the technology needed to decontaminate the mail. Irradiation is commonly used to sanitize medical products, but according to Robert McKenna, director of materiel management for the Veterans Affairs Department, government medical facilities don't currently use gamma rays for decontamination. Rather, McKenna said, equipment is cleaned with high-pressure steam or chemicals, which would likely damage mail. Another option might be to screen mail for the presence of biological agents. Frank Thibodeau, business development manger for biological detection device manufacturer Bruker Daltonics of Billerica, Mass., says both civilian and defense agencies have contacted the company in the past few weeks to learn about options for screening mail. Thibodeau said the company's biological and chemical detection devices could sense the presence of anthrax or other agents on the surface of or inside mail. The company sells its biological detector for $218,000 on the General Services Administration's Federal Supply Schedule, a set of pre-negotiated contracts awarded to multiple companies that any agency can use to make quick purchases of goods and services. However, Bruker is currently selling its devices at full capacity on a contract with the Defense Department, Thibodeau said, so it's unlikely the company could deliver its detectors to other agencies immediately. The chemical detectors aren't sold through the schedules, Thibodeau said. Officials from the Defense Department and the Los Alamos National Laboratory did not respond to requests for comments.
Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.