Alaska staff returns to cleaned up U.S. Senate buildings

Posted: Thursday, January 24, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- After a $14 million cleanup to eradicate anthrax spores, staff members for Alaska's U.S. senators moved back into the Hart Senate Office Building on Tuesday for the first time in three months.

Sens. Ted Stevens and Frank Murkowski, like half of the Senate, have office suites in the Hart. Both senators were in Alaska on Tuesday.

Melanie Alvord, a spokeswoman for Stevens, said she wasn't worried about returning.

''I think at this point, we've had so many delays that whatever had to be done was done,'' she said. ''If they wanted to be rash, we would have been in a month ago.''

On Oct. 15, a staff member in the office of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle opened an envelope containing a white powder, which proved to be anthrax. The building was closed two days later while the Environmental Protection Agency developed a plan to fumigate the building with chlorine dioxide, a toxic gas.

The nine-story building, built around a spacious atrium, smelled faintly of cleansers when it opened at noon Tuesday.

At Murkowski's office, the move from temporary quarters in another building was uneventful except for one staff member's discovery of a clear vial. The object turned out to be a chemical test kit left behind by the cleanup crews, said Murkowski spokesman Chuck Kleeschulte.

Anthrax was found in several offices in Hart but not in Murkowski's or Stevens'.

Alvord found Stevens' suite on the fifth and sixth floors almost exactly as she left it.

Offices where anthrax spores were found were more disrupted. Daschle, D-S.D., won't be able to return to his suite until the carpet and furniture are replaced, probably in mid-March.

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