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Official: white powder at JSD is like cake mix

Posted: March 9, 2012 - 5:01pm  |  Updated: March 10, 2012 - 11:06pm

The suspicious white powder that was sent to the Juneau School District tested negative for any toxins, according to a public health official.

Bernd Jilly, the chief of Alaska State Public Health Laboratories, says it appears the substance is a mixture of flour and cornstarch.

“There is nothing to worry about,” Jilly said in a phone interview late Friday afternoon. “We’re still doing a few more chemistry tests, but they’re all coming up being some sort of starchy material — a mixture of flour and cornstarch and a few other things in there that usually make up cake mix.”

Jilly said the lab in Anchorage tested the specimen for about a dozen toxic organisms and about two dozen industrial chemicals. The test results came back Friday afternoon around 4 p.m. The sample was received Thursday evening.

The Juneau School District was the fifth Alaskan school district to receive the mysterious white substance contained in an envelope postmarked from Texas. The unwanted correspondence sparked an evacuation of the Juneau School District’s Central Office, at the corner of 12th Street next to Harborview Elementary School, on Wednesday.

Southeast Island School District in Thorne Bay on Prince of Wales Island received a similar envelope that same day, also prompting evacuations. The lab still has not received the specimen from Thorne Bay to do testing.

The powder from Tanana School District west of Fairbanks also came back negative for toxins, Jilly said. The Chugach School District in Anchorage is also in the clear.

FBI Special Agent and spokesman Eric Gonzales announced Friday morning a fifth letter containing a white powder substance was received at Kashunamiut School District in Bethel. The National Guard was responding the scene to transfer the powder to the lab, Jilly said.

Gonzales said an investigation into the matter is ongoing, and the FBI is working with local and state law enforcement, fire departments, the postal service and public health officials.

He said in an earlier interview if the perpetrators are caught, they could face felony criminal charges.

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

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