The U.S. Postal Service confirmed yesterday that it extended its contract with Ion Beam Applications Inc. to sanitize mail from possible anthrax contamination for three more months.
The extension cost $2.4 million, the same as for the original three-month contract signed in November. The company's irradiation facility in Bridgeport, NJ, began sanitizing mail that month that had been inside the processing and distribution center in Trenton, NJ, when it temporarily closed Oct. 18.
USPS spokesman Gerry Kreinkamp said the money will come from the $175 million Homeland Security appropriation allocated by the White House to the USPS last year. The USPS will also receive $500 million as part of a $318 billion defense appropriations bill President Bush signed into law last month. The money is to be used for additional security measures, not to help the agency make up for any lost revenue from lower mail volume since the Sept. 11 attacks. The bill covers appropriations through Sept. 30. Postal officials have to send a report to Congress detailing how they will spend the $500 million, and will do so in the next few weeks.
Ion Beam Applications is sanitizing mail going to federal offices by using electron beam/X-ray technology. Currently, only mail addressed to federal offices in Washington is being irradiated. About 350,000 pieces are being irradiated daily.
The announcement follows reports of illness and allergic reactions among people in the Washington area handling irradiated mail.
Meanwhile, Bush sent Congress a $2.13 trillion budget yesterday for fiscal year 2003 that would provide $38 billion in new spending for homeland security. But little of that is earmarked for the USPS.