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Investigation Into HazMat Incident Continues

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avatar Joshua Tree National Park Park Employees Sickened In Hazmat Incident
March 25, 2012 03:25PM
Park headquarters was closed Wednesday afternoon in response to an apparent hazardous materials incident. A number of National Park Service administrative workers reported symptoms of skin irritation, respiratory distress, nausea, and eye irritation after working in the park's mailroom. The building was evacuated and local hazmat teams were called to the scene. Primary suspicion fell on a package that had been delivered to the park by a commercial carrier earlier in the day. Emergency units responding to the incident included National Park Service rangers, Combat Center Fire Hazardous Materials Unit, Twentynine Palms Fire, and Morongo Basin EMS. Jeff Ohlfs, acting chief ranger, served as co-incident commander with the chief of Twentynine Palms Fire. Eleven park workers were treated under decontamination procedures and given a field assessment by EMS personnel. The Oasis Visitor Center was closed to the public at 4 p.m. to assist emergency workers with the decontamination and clean-up process. No park visitors were exposed to any contamination during the incident. Hazmat workers were not able to determine the nature of the material that caused the sudden onset of symptoms experienced by the park workers. The source of the contamination is still under investigation by local and federal agencies.
avatar Investigation Into HazMat Incident Continues
April 05, 2012 02:02PM
Additional information has been received on the hazmat incident that occurred in the park last month. Park headquarters was closed on the afternoon of March 21st in response to an apparent hazardous materials incident. A number of National Park Service administrative workers reported symptoms of skin irritation, respiratory distress, nausea, and eye irritation after working in the park's mailroom. The building was evacuated and local hazmat teams were called to the scene. A hazmat team from San Bernardino County examined the park's mailroom the day after the original incident, declared the headquarters building free of any contaminants, and cleared the building, including the mailroom, for use by park staff. Employees were allowed to telecommute on Thursday while the building was being examined, and they returned to work in the headquarters building on Friday. Although one employee had a temporary physical reaction to the contaminant connected to their exposure, no one was "sickened" or "overcome," as was reported in the media. A total of eleven park staff underwent decontamination procedures as a precaution. The contaminant has not been determined. The matter has been referred to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which is looking into the incident in cooperation with the park. The investigation is ongoing. The park arranged to have a stress debriefing counselor work with park staff after the incident.
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