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Hart Office Building Clean

Aired January 16, 2002 - 10:38   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Now we want to go to breaking news that we are getting out of Washington, D.C., the latest on the anthrax cleanup in the Hart Office Building. There's a new development on that.

Let's bring in our Kate Snow, who is on the phone.

Kate, what do you know?

KATE SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Daryn, some good news coming out of Capitol Hill. The Hart Building, which is where the office of Sen. Tom Daschle is located, is going to be reopened, and rather soon. We have obtained a memo that was sent out this mourning to staff who work in that Senate Hart Office Building. The memo says the news is they expect the building to reopen at noon on Friday, January 18; that's this Friday.

They scheduled meetings tomorrow for senators, to brief the senators, tell them about the cleanup process, the remediation done on the building. Then they will follow that with meetings with staff and again try to reopen the building at noon on Friday. This is very good news for those 50 senators who have offices in that Hart Office Building.

You will recall the building has been closed now since October 17. Over the last few months, we have seen all manner of trucks and equipment and gear surrounding that building. It has been roped off. No one has been allowed inside except for the experts wearing HAZMAT suits going inside the building.

So a bit of a change this morning, Daryn, one of our producers went over and looked at the building and was able to see people walking in and out this morning without any protective gear on. That indicates that the threat is not there any more. In fact, in the memo we obtained, a quote from it, it says -- quote -- "The cleanup achieved the goal of eliminating viable anthrax spores detected in the Hart Building. It is clean and safe to release to the architect of the Capitol for rehabilitation and subsequent reoccupancy."

The bottom line, they are cleaning it up now, Daryn. One thing they really need to do is go in and take out some of the carpet that was damaged in the suite of Sen. Daschle. They may need to replace some of the furniture. But for the most part, they just need to clean up, test all the systems -- the fire alarms, the fire exits, the elevators, make sure everything is in working condition before they let everybody back into the building. But that should take just the next few days -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Kate, it has been a frustrating couple months. Where have these 50 senators and their staff been conducting their business in the meantime?

SNOW: It has been frustrating for them. A lot of them have separate offices. Many of the senators have other offices because they serve on committees. Most senators have what they call hideaway offices. These are small little offices not really made for full-time service, but they are inside the Capitol building itself. A lot of them have been working out of those cozy hideaway offices over the last couple of months. So they will be very glad to get back into their regular quarters.

KAGAN: I imagine each of these senators and all their staffers and people, like you, who work on Capitol Hill, who go in and out of this building, are going to have to ask themselves that's great that the government says it is safe to go in, but are you going to be comfortable going into that office building again?

SNOW: I think they have done everything possible to try to make sure the building is remediated. The process has been painstaking. They have gone through several levels of testing, Daryn. In fact, they tested every single office in the Hart Building, even those that were nowhere near Sen. Daschle's office for any presence of anthrax. They did environment swabbing, where they lifted off swabs off of the desks and the countertops and everything, just to make sure the place is absolutely clean. They have gone through a very exhaustive process involving the CDC and the EPA, in order to insure that the place is safe for people to be inside.

KAGAN: Our Kate Snow, on Capitol Hill. Kate, thank you very much.

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