Crews used high-tech equipment during suspicious powder testing - FOX Carolina 21

Crews used high-tech equipment during suspicious powder testing

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TD Bank that was closed after the substance was found. (Aug. 26, 2013/ FOX Carolina) TD Bank that was closed after the substance was found. (Aug. 26, 2013/ FOX Carolina)
SPARTANBURG, SC (FOX Carolina) -

Police, fire and hazardous material units also known as HAZMAT crews responded to a TD Bank in Spartanburg where an envelope was found containing white powder on Tuesday, according to the Spartanburg Police Department.

The white powder turned out to be boric acid, a common household cleaner, according to Capt. Art Littlejohn of Spartanburg Public Safety.

Investigators said someone mailed boric acid, which was found inside a letter, but the substance posed no risk to the public.

East Main Street was closed between Oakland Avenue and Alabama Street because of the incident at about 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, police said.

Businesses on East Main Street in the area were closed because of the scare; however the street and the bank reopened shortly after.

"What we wanted to do is to make sure everyone was safe, and we did that," Littlejohn said.

A Spartanburg County HAZMAT crew tested the powder on the scene with two chemical identifier tools.

"One is a Raman-based testing equipment, the other is infrared," Tony Barnett, the deputy fire marshall said. "It makes people much more at ease than having to take a sample, send it off to a lab and wait hours, maybe days."

To demonstrate how the devices worked, Barnett tested baby powder for FOX Carolina. He said they received the devices on loan, and the HAZMAT crew trained with them last week and just so happened to still have them in the office.

Investigators said they hope to get some kind of funding to buy their own unit, which could cost about $100,000.

"Once a substance has been identified, we know what precautions or actions we need to take form that point forward," Barnett said.

The devices can read more than 20,000 chemical compounds which are stored in the device's library.

"So that quick - probably less than 20 seconds - we got the exact match for talc, which is baby powder," Barnett said.

Investigators said the boric acid found in the envelope is being tested and analyzed in Columbia by investigators with the Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Police said no one was hurt in the incident.

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