Postal facility set to open in November

Just over two years after being contaminated with anthrax, the Joseph Curseen and Thomas Morris Processing and Distribution Center in Washington is scheduled to reopen at the end of November. Administrative staff will return to the facility first, with mail sorting and other craft employees returning shortly thereafter.

Yet, as the agency prepares staff to re-enter the facility, there is ample concern over the Postal Service's response to the October 2001 anthrax attacks as well as any future biohazard attacks.

In a situation eerily similar to the anthrax incident, the Postal Service on Oct. 23 shut down a mail sorting facility in Greenville, S.C., after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that an envelope handled at the facility contained the deadly toxin ricin. A postal worker discovered the suspicious envelope, which had the words "caution ricin poison" typed on the outside, on Oct. 15. Officials did not decide to shut down the facility until receiving test results from the CDC. The facility has been tested and deemed safe for workers.

The letter was not part of a terrorist attack, but rather a protest over recent trucking regulations issued by the Transportation Department.

It's common for the agency to get dozens of hoax letters and packages every day, Thomas Day, the Postal Service's vice president for engineering, told the House Government Reform Committee Thursday. Since the anthrax attacks, the agency has responded to nearly 20,000 incidents involving suspicious substances. It's prudent to wait for advice from public health officials before acting, he said.

During the anthrax attacks, Postal Service officials waited several days after a contaminated letter was opened in a Senate office building before closing the Curseen and Morris plant, formerly known as the Brentwood postal facility. At the time, agency officials relied on the best available information from the CDC. Current and former postal employees are suing the agency, alleging that such action put their lives at risk. They also charge that the agency withheld critical information related to the contamination.

While praising the agency for efforts to open a dialogue with workers during the months following the anthrax attacks, union officials told the committee that communication has faltered recently. For instance, the American Postal Workers Union didn't find out that the facility was cleared for re-entry until a month after final test results were delivered to the agency.

"If this hearing hadn't been scheduled, I doubt we would have the [results] even now," said Mike Reid, assistant legislative director at APWU.

Reid also said that employees have not received adequate training on how to respond to future incidents.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., said the committee will press postal officials to better detail their plans to train employees.

It's not clear how many postal workers will return to the facility. The agency and its major employee unions have agreed to accommodate any worker who wants to be reassigned to a different Washington-area plant.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

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


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