Indiana Postal Center to Get Biohazard Detectors

KOKOMO, Ind. (AP) - The U.S. Postal Service's Kokomo processing plant will soon become Indiana's fourth postal center capable of detecting anthrax spores.

Postal Service spokeswoman Kim Yates said the deaths of two postal service employees in the Washington, D.C., area in 2001 caused by anthrax-infected mail are a constant reminder of why the biohazard detection system is necessary.

"We had not had anything in place to detect biohazards at all. This raises the comfort level, not only of those receiving mail, but of the employees," Yates said.

When it's installed next month, the biohazard detection system will collect air samples every hour as mail moves through machinery, absorbing airborne particles into a liquid sample that's then injected into a cartridge.

A test will then be automatically performed to look for a match between the sample and the signature of anthrax DNA.

If the potentially deadly bacteria is found, plant personnel and emergency officials would be immediately alerted, the plant evacuated and equipment shut down.

The biohazard detection equipment was purchased by the postal service using Department of Homeland Security funds, Yates said. It will arrive in Kokomo on June 11 and be up and running on June 17.

Kokomo will then be the fourth city in Indiana with such as system. Gary and Indianapolis already have such a system and Muncie is scheduled for one.

"This will help the United States Postal Service detect problems that before would have been spread all over," said Jan Kellar, Kokomo's processing plant manager.