SALEM—Authorities evacuated the first floor of the Oregon Department of Revenue’s main building Wednesday morning after mail room workers were exposed to a letter containing an unknown powdery substance.
The powder turned out to be not hazardous or toxic. It has not yet been identified, according to personnel from the Oregon Military Department’s Civil Support Team and the Salem Fire Department.
The evacuation occurred around 7 a.m., after powder fell out of a letter sent through an automated envelope opener. The powder sprinkled down onto a stainless steel shelf, but did not come into contact with any employee.
The worker operating the envelope opener immediately activated building emergency protocols. He and six other employees in the room quarantined themselves, not allowing anyone in or out, and placed calls to police and supervisors. Approximately 100 other employees evacuated the floor, congregating in a nearby cafeteria.
Oregon State Police and the Salem Police Department blocked access to the first floor and cordoned off a one-block section of Capitol Street east of the building, while fire and military officials investigated the scene.
The rest of the Revenue building, floors 2 through 5, remained open during the incident. Employees had access to upper floors through a separate stairwell.
Fire and military officials concluded their testing around 10:30 a.m. and declared the first floor open. Evacuated employees returned to work shortly afterward.
“I’m happy that our employees are safe, and proud of the way they responded to this incident. They reacted quickly, thoughtfully, and in accordance with their training,” Revenue Director Jim Bucholz said. “I’d also like to thank the police, fire, and military for their prompt response and careful analysis of the unknown substance.”
State police are investigating the source of the letter.