Hazardous Scare at Fluvanna Jail

By: Sarah Batista
By: Sarah Batista

October 27, 2005

Some employees at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women got quite a scare today. A suspicious substance found inside their mailroom forced a partial evacuation.

The substance was white powder found by an employee early this morning in a piece of outgoing mail. Initial tests later found the powder to be harmless, but it was still enough to rattle jail employees.

Thursday's scene outside of the Fluvanna County Correctional Center for women was far from normal.

"About 8:45 [a.m.] I received a call that the institution had received a white powder in the mailroom when they were stamping a letter," said Mike Perkins of the Fluvanna County Fire Department.

Fire and hazmat crews quickly sprung into action and evacuated the administrative building. Inmates were kept inside the jail. The seven employees inside the mailroom when the powder was found were placed under quarantine while crews assessed the situation.

"We really had what we would consider a low-risk threat assessment," said one official.

Preliminary tests done on the powder proved what authorities had already suspected--it was not anthrax or anything else harmful.

"The people at the facility may try to create a fragrance in their outbound mail, and so it's possible that it could have been like a talcum powder," said an official.

It was a false alarm that left everyone breathing a little easier.

"We're very pleased that our staff is safe and our inmates are safe and that's our primary concern," said Assistant Warden Phyllis Baskerville.

Officials still don't know exactly what the powder was, just that it wasn't harmful. They say the only way they will run more tests is if any of the employees develop any unusual symptoms. This is the first incident of this type in the jails history.

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