YSU Substance in dorm tests negative
University police have no suspects in the hoax.
By RON COLE
VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- A powdery substance found in a dormitory at Youngstown State University was not anthrax.
The powder discovered in a basement maintenance room of Lyden House on Oct. 15 tested negative, said Len Perry, director of YSU's environmental and occupational health and safety.
The university received results Wednesday from the Ohio Department of Health.
"It was a prank," Perry said. "It was someone out to cause a problem."
The dormitory was evacuated while the Youngstown Fire Department's hazardous materials team cleaned up the room.
Charges possible: YSU Police Chief Jack Gocala said there are no suspects in the hoax, but he said his department will press charges if the pranksters are apprehended.
"If somebody gives us a substantial lead or information, then we'll pursue it, but at this particular point in time I don't have anything definitive," he said.
Other substance: YSU is awaiting results of a second suspicious substance sent to the state laboratory. A student found material under a computer desk in Lyden House that Perry said looked like crumbled ceiling tile.
He said YSU has conducted about 10 information sessions for employees and students to talk about bioterrorism and how to handle suspicious substances.
"We respond to it and evaluate it, and need to try to make some good judgment calls now at this point because you're not going to be sending everything down to the state" for testing, he said.
"That would be counterproductive, because there are bona fide samples that have a little more threat behind them that they need to get to. All of us that are involved in this agree that we need to start using some good common sense and assess the threat level."
City cases: Charlotte Stahl, health administrator for the Youngstown Board of Health, said 10 specimens have been submitted by the city for testing. Six are not anthrax or any other biological hazard.
Among the substances that tested negative are a white powder emptied out of an opened tabloid at a private residence Oct. 10, an unopened letter leaking white powder that was noticed by a Postal Service letter carrier and retrieved at the Main Post Office in downtown Youngstown, and the sample of white powder that had been poured over a doorknob and gathered on the YSU campus Oct. 15.
Stahl said more than 10 substances have been collected, but local officials were able to identify most of them, so they were not sent to the state for further testing.