Post office powder scare false alarm

COVINGTON - A toxic substance scare at the U.S. Postal Service Annex at ByPass Road Tuesday afternoon turned out to be a false alarm.

According to Newton County Fire Chief Mike Satterfield, a mail carrier returned to the annex from the delivery route reporting burning eyes and skin irritation to a supervisor. The supervisor then took the employee to the emergency room at Newton Medical Center. Staff at the hospital alerted authorities at about 2 p.m.

The employee and supervisor were isolated at the hospital and other emergency room patients were diverted to treatment rooms outside the ER, said Linda Moseley, director of marketing and business development for the hospital.

Moseley said she did not have details about diagnosis or treatment but said that the patients were released by 4 p.m.

The postal inspector was called in to investigate and found no hazardous substances at the annex, according to Satterfield.

"The packages on the mail truck were checked and no issues were found," Satterfield said.

"A powder or dust like material was found in the mail carriers mail trey in the mail delivery truck. The postal inspector has seen this type material before and believes it to be residue that is formed from machinery that handles the mail during processing. That material was tested and had no positive results," he added.

The fire and sheriff's departments along with Newton EMA were on the scene and public safety vehicles blocked the driveway to the facility for about 45 minutes. There were only two employees in the facility at the time of the scare; most of the employees were out on routes, Satterfield said.

The cause of the postal carrier's symptoms were unknown.

Staff Reporter Michelle Floyd contributed to this story.