Hart Senate Office Building reopening Tuesday, three months after anthrax attack

Tuesday, January 22nd 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Workers were making final preparations Tuesday for the reopening of the Hart Senate office building, three months after it was closed when a letter containing anthrax spores was opened there.

The nine-story building, home to offices of half the 100 senators, was to formally reopen at noon when Senate Majority Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christie Whitman planned to enter it together.

Hart has been closed since Oct. 17, two days after the anthrax-bearing letter was opened in Daschle's office. Following repeated delays, the 1-million-square-foot building was declared safe last week after several attempts to decontaminate it with chlorine dioxide, a toxic gas.

The building's reopening marks a major step in Congress' return to normalcy following a tumultuous autumn.

The Capitol was evacuated Sept. 11 during the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington and two days later because of a bomb scare. In addition, all six of the major House and Senate office buildings were closed for at least short periods while investigators searched for _ and sometimes found _ more anthrax.

Last week, an EPA spokeswoman and Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, disclosed that the anthrax cleanup in Hart and other congressional buildings cost an estimated $14 million through December.

After the Daschle letter was opened, thousands of workers were treated with antibiotics as a precaution and no one has been reported to have taken ill.

No one has yet been arrested in the case.