Corrections or additions?

This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the

October 24, 2001 edition of U.S.

1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Gloomy Rounds

Four million pieces of mail normally pass through the

main Trenton post office every day en route to homes and businesses

throughout the Route 1 corridor. That post office, located on Route

130 in Hamilton Township, has been closed since last Thursday, October

18, after one of its mail sorters tested positive for anthrax.

As the area’s main mail processing and distribution center, the

facility’s

closing could conceivably paralyze mail delivery throughout central

New Jersey. But not so, said a post office spokesperson, essentially

adding anthrax to the snow and rain and gloom of night that will not

keep the carriers from their appointed rounds.

"We met over the weekend," said Marilyn Thorbahn of the Postal

Service. "We made a lot of different provisions for

customers."

Mail is being sorted in tents and trailers for the time being, and

some mail is being diverted to nearby processing centers.

Some Princeton area businesses and residents noted a sharp decline

in mail delivered on Friday and Saturday, but the system was up to

60 percent of normal by Monday, and Thorbahn predicted that it would

be at 100 percent by the end of the week. These figures apply to mail

coming into the main post office, but not to mail that was awaiting

processing when the facility was shut down.

"The mail inside is still being tested," Thorbahn said, adding

that she does not know how much mail being held up, or the dates on

which it was received.

More cases of possible anthrax infection among postal workers were

reported this Monday, October 22, including two deaths in Washington,

D.C., that Ivan Walks, that city’s chief health officer, termed

"highly

suspicious" for inhalation anthrax.

As central New Jersey emerges as the origin of mail that has served

as an anthrax delivery system by as-yet-unknown persons, Thorbahn

is inundated with questions. "I’ve gotten 30 calls from the media

so far today," she said at mid-afternoon on October 22 as she

juggled two phone lines in her office in Edison.

One other central New Jersey post office, a small facility in West

Trenton, was closed on October 19. On September 18 a letter containing

anthrax was sent to NBC anchor Tom Brokaw with a postmark indicating

that it had been mailed from West Trenton. On October 9 a letter was

sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle with the same postmark.

A mail carrier who picks up and delivers mail from approximately 250

homes and businesses in West Trenton has been diagnosed with skin

anthrax, and FBI agents are said to be combing the mail route seeking

information on who might have sent the tainted letters.

Meanwhile, the postal service has set up a temporary post office box

section and caller service unit on the grounds of the main Trenton

post office. Mobile units there, and at the West Trenton post office,

are selling stamps and providing other retail services.

Businesses are being directed to take their mail to other central

New Jersey post offices, including the Princeton post office at 213

Carnegie Center; the Kilmer processing and distribution center at

Kilmer Road in Edison; the Monroe Township post office on Pennineville

Road in Jamesburg; and the Hightstown post office on Mercer Street

in Hightstown. The Postal Service suggests that companies call

732-819-3250

for information on which of these locations is best suited to accept

their mail.

To date, Thorbahn said, the post office has been responding to

situations

as they arise. There are no plans at this time to close additional

post offices. "I’m hoping, we’re all hoping, that this is the

end," she said.


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