Montgomery family seeks treatment after finding white, powdery substance on items in mailbox

Decontamination effort closes down Princeton Medical Center emergency room for about an hour.

By: Dick Willever
   A trip to the mailbox turned into a trip to the emergency room for a Montgomery family Saturday night after they discovered a white, powdery substance on some items in the box.
   The family — a father, mother, daughter and a set of in-laws — called Montgomery police at approximately 6:05 p.m., conferred with officers at the scene and then drove themselves to The Medical Center at Princeton, according to Montgomery Police Director Michael Beltranena.
   Montgomery police called the hospital to say the family was on its way, but the family managed to enter the emergency room to seek treatment, he said.
   That caused the area to be closed down for about an hour as Princeton Borough police, Princeton firefighters and the Mercer County HAZMAT unit secured and decontaminated it, according to Scott Gilbert, deputy chief of the Princeton Fire Department.
   Montgomery police secured the family’s home. The suspect mail, described by Mr. Beltranena as "a couple of articles of mail," was sent to the state Department of Health for testing, he said. He declined to describe the items as either letters or packages.
   The family and the two cars in which family members drove to the hospital underwent decontamination procedures Saturday evening. Interviewed at about 11 p.m., Mr. Gilbert said the family was still at the medical center but would be allowed to leave after processing was completed.
   The family would not immediately be returning home, sources said.
   Officials are proceeding with caution in regards to the family’s return to the residence, but there is no cause for alarm, according to Mr. Beltranena.
   "There is no health threat to our residents," he said, adding, "We will be taking every precaution."
   Recent incidents involving a white, powdery substance on items found in the mail, including a letter sent to NBC news on Sept. 18 postmarked out of Trenton that tested positive for anthrax, have caused great concern and are being investigated for possible links to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
   The identity of the family is being withheld at this time pending further investigation, Mr. Beltranena said. If tests indicate the substance to be anthrax, the incident will be investigated by the FBI, he said.
   Montgomery residents can look to the township’s Web site at www.TwpMontgomery.NJ.US for basic information on how the township has handled and will handle such incidents, according to Mr. Beltranena.