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Hazmat team too expensive for B-LC

By Kay S. Pedrotti Both Sheriff Brad White and fire chief Steve Andrews say that a hazardous materials operations unit for Lamar County, even combined with several surrounding counties, will not be feasible financially for a long time. The Macon-Bibb County fire department hazmat team worked twice in Barnesville last week, both times in connection with threatening letters sent to The Herald Gazette office. White powder in the first letter was found to be baking soda but there are no chances taken, said White. The office and Greenwood Street, along with nearby offices were affected in the white-powder chemical scare. Hazmat units from Warner Robins and Macon apparently are the first called when federal agencies become involved, White said, because U.S. regions of operation have been designated throughout Georgia. ’A hazmat unit costs a minimum of half a million dollars just to get started,’ Andrews said. ‘Then there’s the training, which is very expensive. We have plans in place for incidents, to respond quickly and effectively.’ Contamination suits, used only once, are $1,000 and up, White added. The breathing apparatus to go with them, which is reusable, is about $18,000 per responder. Andrews and White generally use Clayton or Henry County hazmat units but last week the Department of Homeland Security and FBI were involved. The bureau is continuing its investigation to track down the sender. ‘It’s just not within our ability to fund,’ said White. ‘That’s why the units are usually in larger urban areas.’

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