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Buildings around Akron federal building reopened after substance deemed not dangerous, no bomb found

Hazmat team will conduct lab test on substance before reopening federal building
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Posted at 11:33 AM, Jan 04, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-04 19:03:50-05

AKRON, Ohio — The John F. Seiberling Federal Building in Downtown Akron was evacuated Tuesday after a suspicious white powdery substance was found in the mailroom alongside a note stating there was a bomb in the building, Akron Police confirmed.

At about 9:44 a.m., Akron Fire received a call that there was an exposure to a white powdery substance in the mailroom of the federal building in Akron, Fire Chief Joe Natko said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon. A command officer and a hazmat team was sent to investigate.

When the team arrived, they noted that there was a white powdery substance and stepped to to a full hazmat response with Akron Fire. Several other agencies responded as backup, including the Summit County Sheriff's Office and multiple agencies from within the county, Natko said.

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Further investigation showed that a woman had been exposed to the substance. She was evaluated and nothing was found to be wrong with her, but she still had some of the substance on her.

A fully-encapsulated hazmat crew, with breathing apparatuses, went in and decontaminated the area, got the substance off the exposed woman, put her in a hazmat suit and brought her out of the building.

The hazmat team then determined through field sampling that the substance was nothing that could be dangerous to life or health, Natko said. While it was not a laboratory test, the team was able to eliminate the substance as a radiological, biological or explosive threat.

The woman who was exposed was taken by ambulance to Akron Medical Center where she was evaluated and released without incident, Natko said.

While the hazmat team continued to investigate the mailroom, they found a note next to the powdery substance indicating there was a bomb in the building, Natko said. At that time, they immediately backed the hazmat crew out of the building and evacuated all buildings in a one-block radius around the federal building, including moving the unified command post back.

Officials then brought in the Summit County Bomb Squad, Natko said. They coordinated a search of the building with bomb-sniffing dogs from several agencies, including the Children's Hospital and Kent State University.

Teams searched outside and inside the building and came back with nothing, Natko said, so the building was cleared and those in surrounding buildings were told they can start to re-enter them.

The hazmat team then went back into the building to mitigate the suspicious substance and take samples of it for further testing.

"Since we still don't know for sure what it is, part of their job is to secure some samples, bring those out for further testing," Natko said. Once the samples have all been examined, then we'll release folks to go back into the federal building. If it is so safe."

Natko said that federal agencies that have responded, including the FBI and Homeland Security, are looking into who may have done this.

"But it was quite a large threat that we faced — white powdery substance, bomb — all in the federal building," Natko said. "That's why we did everything that we did to make sure everybody around them, everybody in the federal building and our own safety forces were secure and safe."

The John F. Seiberling Federal Building, located at 2 South Main St., houses the District and Bankruptcy courts, Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, U.S. Attorneys, U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services, U.S. Marshals, Internal Revenue Service, Social Security Administration, Veterans Affairs, and the Department of Labor, according to the U.S. General Services Administration.

Watch Natko's 1:30 p.m. news conference on the incident below:

Akron Fire official says substance, bomb threat deemed not dangerous

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