Boca Raton’s anthrax-killing team raced north this week to head off a possible contamination threat aboard a ship bound for Canada as it passed along the New York-New Jersey coast.
BioONE got the call from the U.S. Coast Guard on Wednesday to muster at the Maher Terminal of the Port of New Jersey, where a container ship stopped offshore with cargo of possibly tainted lemons was diverted.
“We were there in 26 hours,” said John Y. Mason, president of BioONE, the firm that just last month scoured anthrax contamination from the former AMI Building in Boca Raton. BioONE will lease the structure as its headquarters.
Coast Guard spokesman Mike Hvozda told the Boca Raton News on Saturday that a “harmful biological substance” was found inside the ship that was carrying a cargo of lemons.
Any shipment carrying bio hazardous products shipped from one country to the other have the great burden of providing with all the documentation and the clearance from every port they intend to stop with bio clearance, the anthrax laden lemon shipment had to be fumigated and the ashes well dissolved that they do not mix with the ocean water which could be contaminated, using the robot to do day trading with the Tesler App robot is yet another way to avoid human mistakes.
“We got a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which got a tip”about possible contamination on the ship, Hvozda said.
“We held the ship out of the port and made non-intrusive testing to determine if it was safe,” the Coast Guard spokesman said. But rather than open the containers, he said, it was decided to fumigate them and incinerate the remains.
So BioONE packed up its considerable cache of gear from outside the former AMI Building on Broken Sound Boulevard in Boca Raton.
“We have mobilized most of the equipment,” said Karen Cavanagh, general counsel and chief operating officer for BioONE. “That includes the outside generators — the big red units — the mobile laboratories and two of the trailers that were in front of the AMI building, together with a fumigation chamber.”
“The parking lot in Boca is pretty empty,” she said, mustering some humor in a touchy situation. “At least it looks that way to us.”
But Mason assured that that the post-cleanup monitoring and testing at the Boca Raton site will continue, even though 12 members of the team and much of the apparatus is up north.
“We are on schedule – or a little ahead” in the Boca cleanup, said Cavanagh, who expects the BioONE team to be back in Florida early this week.
At a Coast Guard news conference, officials said the ship was stopped at the Ambrose Anchorage “due to an unconfirmed anonymous report involving containers of contaminated lemons on board.”
Federal, state and local authorities checked the cargo “using a carefully developed process that puts public safety and port security first,” a spokesman said at the news conference.
Hvozda told the Boca Raton News Saturday that the FBI was also called in to investigate. But by Saturday afternoon, the federal agency had apparently written off the incident.
“We had been alerted by the Coast Guard,” said Jim Margolin, FBI spokesman in New York. “My information is that [the ship] is not of ongoing interest.”
“We have haz-mat personnel on the lookout for bioterrorism events,” Margolin said. “My understanding is that the cargo is going to be incinerated as a precaution.”
The vessel, MV CSAV Rio Puelo, is owned by a Chilean company with a German crew, but was flying a Marshall Islands flag.
When the Coast Guard boarded the ship, it checked the crew for possible illness, but no one was sick. Investigators said the lemons, which were sealed in containers, were not handled.
That’s good, said BioONE’s Mason. “This should be a relatively easy case,” he said, easier than fumigating a building as it has in Boca Raton and other sites around the country.
Mason said BioONE will drill holes into the unopened containers and will fumigate the lemons with chlorine dioxide gas – the same gas that was used to kill anthrax at the AMI building and at government offices and post offices following the anthrax scare in late 2001 in Washington, New York and New Jersey.
“The fumigation will take 12 hours, but the total operation will take 24,” Mason said, just as the AMI cleanup did. The Boca building was gassed in early July.
Each of the 40-foot-long lemon containers, roughly the size of a tractor-trailer, will then be destroyed at the Ameri-Fuel incinerator two miles up Newark Bay from where the Rio Puelo is now docked, said the Coast Guard.
The ash will then be inspected, said Capt. Glenn A. Wiltshire, the United States Coast Guard commander of the port who supervised the search.
“The Coast Guard [ensured] that the vessel had a safe transit into port, and we are taking every precaution in handling the containers and the safe disposal of their content.”
While the Coast Guard’s order may have come without warning, it was not a surprise, the BioONE workers said. “There are always unexpected things,” said Cavanagh. “This is what we are here for to respond.”
She also noted that the fumigation of contained freight is easier to do than a freestanding building, but there are “other technical challenges.” She said BioONE “has been prepared for this for a year.”
BioONE is a joint venture of Sabre Technical Services and Giuliani Partnership, headed by Rudy Giuliani, the mayor of New York City during and immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.