EPA declares tabloid publisher's offices a Superfund site, begins more anthrax testing

Monday, October 22nd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ A tabloid publisher's headquarters where a worker contracted a fatal case of anthrax has been declared a Superfund site as the Environmental Protection Agency began more testing there, an EPA official said Monday.

The Superfund designation will allow the federal government to pay for the cleanup costs at American Media Inc.'s offices, said Fred Stroud, the EPA's on-scene coordinator. He could not estimate the cost of decontaminating the building in Boca Raton, Fla., about 20 miles south of West Palm Beach.

The FBI turned the building over to the EPA last weekend after agents spent two weeks scouring the offices for evidence. The building was closed Oct. 8 when anthrax spores were discovered in the mailroom and on the keyboard of a photo editor who died from the inhaled form of the disease.

The EPA this week will conduct more extensive environmental testing covering the entire building, Stroud said.

``We need to know the status of the complete facility, not just the areas where the crime may or may not have occurred,'' he said.

Stroud said crews on Sunday took 20 samples from the ventilation system on the first floor, where the mailroom is located. Results were pending.

The EPA also will help decontaminate the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington where an anthrax-tainted letter arrived at Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle's office. The building has not been designated a Superfund site because the EPA is not leading the cleanup, Stroud said.

In Boca Raton, the FBI gave the EPA results of its environmental testing on about 10 percent of the 67,000-square-foot building, mainly in the mailroom and around Sun photo editor Bob Stevens' desk on the third floor.

The FBI believes an anthrax-tainted letter is the source of the anthrax that killed Stevens and infected mailroom worker Ernesto Blanco.