Published November 20, 2012
Employees at state agency in Olympia sick after opening mailCHELSEA KROTZER
No harmful chemicals were found Tuesday afternoon at the Health Care Authority facility in downtown Olympia, hours after it was evacuated because several employees became ill after opening mail. The incident was reported at 12:30 p.m. after four employees in the fifth-floor mail room reported smelling an odor after opening mail, said Washington State Patrol spokesman Paul Erdahl. “They began to gag on an odor,” he said. Fifteen people reported having headaches, scratchy eyes and scratchy throats, said Olympia Deputy Fire Chief Greg Wright. The State Patrol, Olympia Fire Department and ambulance crews were called to the scene. The downtown Olympia building's fifth floor was evacuated, followed by the entire building. The mail was placed in a barrel and secured while employees left the building. The mail was addressed only to the Health Care Authority, Erdahl said. Employees affected by the odor were checked out by medics and allowed to go home about 3 p.m. while members of the State Patrol’s SWAT team arrived to identify the substance. The building had been declared safe by 5 p.m., Erdahl said. Detectives with the State Patrol Criminal Investigation Division were investigating, he said.