Police investigate suspicious letter at Sen. Snowe’s Bangor office

Bangor firefighters wait outside the Margaret Chase Smith Federal Building in downtown Bangor on Friday afternoon, May 27, 2011, after a suspicious letter was reported by a staffer at Sen. Olympia Snowe's office. A section of the building was isolated by fire crews, but the entire building was not evacuated.
John Clarke Russ | BDN
Bangor firefighters wait outside the Margaret Chase Smith Federal Building in downtown Bangor on Friday afternoon, May 27, 2011, after a suspicious letter was reported by a staffer at Sen. Olympia Snowe's office. A section of the building was isolated by fire crews, but the entire building was not evacuated.
Posted May 27, 2011, at 2:34 p.m.
Last modified May 28, 2011, at 1:09 p.m.
People walk past Bangor firefighters who wait outside the Margaret Chase Smith Federal Building in downtown Bangor on Friday afternoon, May 27, 2011, after a suspicious letter was reported by a staffer at Sen. Olympia Snowe's office. A section of the building was isolated by fire crews, but the entire building was not evacuated.
John Clarke Russ | BDN
People walk past Bangor firefighters who wait outside the Margaret Chase Smith Federal Building in downtown Bangor on Friday afternoon, May 27, 2011, after a suspicious letter was reported by a staffer at Sen. Olympia Snowe's office. A section of the building was isolated by fire crews, but the entire building was not evacuated.

BANGOR, Maine — A letter that was flagged as suspicious and potentially dangerous Friday afternoon at U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe’s Bangor field office turned out to be harmless, according to Bangor Fire Department Lt. Kevin Bland.

Four people were quarantined for several hours and emergency responders from multiple agencies converged on the Margaret Chase Smith Federal Building in downtown Bangor at about 2:10 p.m. Employees of Snowe’s reported that a letter received at the office contained powder that at first was seen as suspicious.

Bland said a regional hazardous materials team from Orono Fire Department removed the letter from the office and after consultation with postal officials determined that the powdery substance on it was harmless. A decontamination team from Ellsworth was en route to the scene but was called off, said Bland.

 Bland said it was uncertain what the powder was.

“According to postal inspectors that we talked with, they didn’t think that it was suspicious in any way as far as being geared toward that particular office,” said Bland. “The federal agencies that have jurisdiction might elect to have some tests done on it, but it was not deemed hazardous.”

Bland described the letter as a “mass mailing” that looked like it was sent to an unknown number of addresses, and that there was nothing about the letter that made it appear to be a threat aimed specifically at Snowe.

Bland said two of Snowe’s staff and two security officers were quarantined for several hours. After the powder was deemed benign, they were given showers and released, said Bland.

“Everyone went home safe and sound,” said Bland. “Some people were there a little bit longer than they wanted to be, but we were trying to make everyone as safe as we could. In the rest of the building, it was business as usual.”

Fire crews isolated a section of the structure, but did not evacuate the entire building.

Snowe spokesman Ken Lundberg said that staff followed safety procedures when they discovered the letter in Friday’s mail.

A spokesman for the Bangor Police Department said Saturday that the powder is in police custody and has not yet been identified. The investigation is ongoing.

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