For the second time in less than a year, a powder scare in Covington turned out to be nothing serious.
A Covington-based mail carrier began to feel irritation and burning eyes while driving his route Tuesday, but investigators found nothing hazardous in the carrier's truck or the Covington ByPass Road distribution center and the carrier was released from Newton Medical Center around 4 p.m.
"It was actually not powder, but rather residue from the (mail sorting) machines. The belts from the machine when they run so much, like how the timing belt (in a car) would give off black residue, occasionally give off residue," said Yulanda Burns, a U.S. Postal Inspector and public information officer with the Atlanta division. "Contact is not harmful, but to sensitive skin (the residue) can cause irritation."
Burns said the residue is not common, so workers may not be familiar with it and think it's hazardous upon first glance. She assured the public the residue is not harmful.
Newton County Fire Chief Mike Satterfield said Postal Inspector Clint Potter had planned to check mail boxes along the carrier's route late Tuesday afternoon to ensure there were no harmful contaminants in any mail boxes.
Burns said all postal operations in Covington had resumed Tuesday after being cleared of any possible threat.
When the carrier began feeling symptoms, he returned to the ByPass Road distribution center, and he and his supervisor went to the emergency room around 2 p.m. Linda Moseley, Newton Medical's director of marketing, confirmed the carrier was released, but did not have information about how he was treated.
The distribution center is normally only manned by a mail clerk and supervisor, and Satterfield said neither of them had any symptoms.
"I checked with both of them. They looked fine, talked fine, eyes weren't watering, so I felt comfortable with them and they did too," he said Tuesday afternoon at the postal center.
Satterfield said the investigator received permission from a company to open and check the packages in the carrier's truck.
Postal investigators are the federal law enforcement arm of the U.S. Postal Service and their primary responsibility is to keep customers, employees and the mail safe. Burns said investigating any suspicious powders is a responsibility. Burns said she couldn't reveal specific tests, but she said investigators use specialized equipment and various liquids and powders to test suspicious items.