The powder was released when an employee of PureTalk, a cell phone refurbishing company in the east Atlanta suburb of Covington, opened a package containing two cellphone batteries that appeared fused together, said Covington Police Capt. Ken Malcom. He said the package also included a note stating the powder was intended to harm someone, but he wouldn’t elaborate.
“Our business is the cellular phone business — that’s a refurbishing facility — we refurbish some used phones,” said company spokesman Michael Geoffroy, who added that employee safety is a top priority.
“So far, the indication – we’re getting good news — that this is not a contaminant, a foreign contaminant was placed in the battery … that it was just an accident, explosion within the contents of the battery,” said Malcom.
State and federal authorities were called to help investigate. The FBI sent a bomb tech unit, a hazmat unit and members of the crisis response squad to the east Atlanta suburb to investigate, said Special Agent Steve Emmett. Malcom said he also sought help from the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense.
“It’s not uncommon for public safety to receive calls for suspicious packages, but the vast majority are harmless,” he said. “But this is a situation that we’re treating as a threat to people’s safety and health,” said Malcom.
The powder was released overnight, and soon the employee who handled the package began experiencing a burning feeling in the eyes, and numbness and irritation of the hands, said Malcom. Soon, other employees reported similar symptoms. They all decided to leave and drive to Newton Medical Center, where they stayed overnight. He said the hospital reported the problem about 2:30 a.m. Friday.
Newton Medical Center spokeswoman Linda Moseley said all 10 employees were treated and released.
“We’re hoping and we’re praying we can resolve this investigation very quickly,” Malcom said.