Update: Notification regarding loans to Smithsonian NMNH

Sally Shelton Shelton.Sally at NMNH.SI.EDU
Mon Dec 3 10:38:30 CST 2001


Update on Smithsonian mail, U. S. Postal Service and the Brentwood facility: information provided by Cheryl Bright and Sally Shelton

Thanks to Liz Dietrich of NMNH, we are able to provide the following update based on a meeting on Friday, 30 November, with USPS representatives. The situation with mail to and from the Smithsonian Institution and other Federal agencies served by the Brentwood mail facility over the past six weeks is as follows: 

First-class mail deliveries have resumed on a limited basis. All first class letter and flats mail coming in to unique government zip codes (the 202-205 series of zip codes) now automatically goes from a DC sorting facility to Lima, Ohio, for sorting and sanitization by irradiation (more on that below). Approximately 10 truck trailer-loads of mail goes out daily to Lima, but only 2 loads' worth comes back to DC daily, so full delivery has not resumed. As Brentwood handled mail for some 264 Federal agencies, which constituted 47% of its volume, and as staffing is limited and the process is more labor-intensive, the backlog is massive. Incoming mail is sorted in chronological order as best as possible. 

The impoundment of all materials at Brentwood occurred on October 21. The mailings trapped in the closure of the Brentwood facility potentially any item in the US mail system addressed to or from the Smithsonian dating approximately from October 14-21 were all packaged by staff from the Centers for Disease Control and will all be irradiated before they are delivered to the addressee received, whether incoming or outgoing. 2/3 of this remains to be processed. There is no way we can tell at this time if materials sent to or from the SI during the critical time are there, but we are assuming they are. Items that have been irradiated will not be marked or flagged by the Postal Service There is no way to mark these as having been irradiated. While some papers may show a yellowish discoloration, the only sure indicator is a U. S. postmark between October 14 and 21. We will record this for everything received that has a postmark within that time period with that postmark time frame for future reference. We will notify owners of non-SI materials, so that everyone can track the effects irradiation may have on materials. 

I.  INCOMING MAIL (mail that is addressed to SI and other Federal agencies and entities with a 202, 203, 204 or 205## zip code)

A. Mail physically within the Brentwood building on October 21 (includes outgoing mail postmarked in the October 14-21 time frame)
Bulk Mail letters and flats - are currently being bagged by CDC and sent to Lima, OH, for irradiation; will be delivered as they are returned to the local temporary Federal mail facility at V Street
First Class & Registered Mail letters and flats - are currently being bagged by CDC and sent to Lima, OH, for irradiation; will be delivered as they are returned to the local temporary Federal mail facility at V Street
Packages - are currently being bagged by CDC and sent to Lima OH for irradiation; will be delivered as they are returned to the local temporary Federal mail facility at V Street

At this time CDC has bagged about 1/3 of the mail that was in Brentwood when it was quarantined on Oct. 21. All letters and flats regardless of postal class including bulk mail and other 3rd and 4th class mail will be processed through a conveyor-style irradiation unit that can accommodate flexible items that have a maximum thickness of about 3 centimeters. Items bigger than 3 centimeters in their smallest dimension, especially if they are not "bendable" will be placed in a room and irradiated. No further description of this process was provided.

B. Incoming mail postmarked before October 21 but not in the Brentwood building on October 21
Bulk Mail letters and flats - have not been and will not be irradiated; was delivered or is being delivered with some delays in service 
First Class & Registered Mail letters and flats - have been re-routed through Lima, OH, for irradiation; will be delivered as they are returned to the local temporary Federal mail facility at V Street
Packages - have not been and will not be irradiated; were delivered or are being delivered with some delays in service

C. Incoming mail postmarked After October 21 
Bulk Mail letters and flats - have not been and will not be irradiated; was delivered or is being delivered with some delays in service 
First Class & Registered Mail letters and flats - have been re-routed through Lima, OH, for irradiation; will be delivered as it is returned to the local temporary Federal mail facility at V Street
Packages - have not been and will not be irradiated; were delivered or are being delivered with some delays in service

II. OUTGOING MAIL to addresses with zip codes other than 202, 203, 204 or 205##, postmarked after October 21
Bulk Mail letters and flats - are not irradiated; are being delivered normally
First Class & Registered Mail letters and flats - are not irradiated; are being delivered normally
Packages - are not irradiated; are being delivered normally

Only letters and flats in incoming mail after October 21 are being irradiated. Packages and parcels are not, and there no plans at this moment to do so. This is very important. Third- and fourth-class (=bulk)  mail is also not being irradiated. From the standpoint of  collections, it appears that at this time the only specimens at risk of irradiation damage are those that were in the Brentwood building on October 21, 2001. Any package sent to SI from Oct. 1 - Oct. 20 that we have not yet received could potentially be quarantined at Brentwood and ultimately irradiated. In the future, as long as specimens are shipped to us in heavy, inflexible containers that are no smaller than 2 inches in their smallest dimension, our incoming packages will not be irradiated.  

None of our outgoing packages are being irradiated at this time. Outgoing mail from the DC area will not be irradiated, and there should be no delay unless it is addressed to one of the 202-205 unique government zip codes, in which case it will go from DC to Ohio and back to DC.

The irradiation policy for the US Postal Service is being constantly revised. It is possible that at some time in the future incoming packages will be irradiated. The USPS has committed to advising us well in advance if they implement a package irradiation program. It is not clear if other carrier services, which so far do not and do not plan to irradiate mailings, will notify us in time if they are forced to change policy.

Mail coming into the 1111 North Capitol Station is subject to low-dose X-ray inspection by the SI Office of Protective Services. This should not affect anything except unexposed film. If this is a concern, SI staff should be notified in advance so that protective measures can be taken. 

We need to notify people sending materials to and from the NMNH of the following points:
Materials being sent from the NMNH after October 21 should not be delayed much or at all. If a shipment has not arrived on time, please notify the shipping office and the ADRC staff.

Materials that were sent to the SI from October 14-21 have most likely been part of the trapped material at Brentwood that will certainly have been irradiated. It is possible that foreign shipments to SI mailed before Oct. 14 have also been quarantined at Brentwood. NMNH staff are asked to document everything arriving with such postmarks, and to notify correspondents as appropriate that this likelihood exists.

Materials that were sent to the SI since October 21 or so have also been processed at Brentwood, but only first-class letters and flats have been or will be irradiated, according to policy at this time. Parcels and packages may be delayed in arrival but most likely have not been irradiated.

It is safe for now for anyone to send parcels to the NMNH and other Federal addresses in the 202-205 zip code series without fear of irradiation. Letters and flats, however, will certainly be irradiated. Please require that all collections materials of any kind be shipped to NMNH as parcels, not as flats (i.e., in sturdy boxes that do not bend, rather than in padded envelopes or Jiffy bags). 

There is currently no risk of irradiation of materials being sent from the SI or the DC area. If that policy changes, we will be notified in time to pass the warning along. 

Updates on the situation are posted daily to www.usps.com, under the section on security and safety of mail. 

Thank you again for your patience. 


Sally Y. Shelton
Collections Officer
National Museum of Natural History
Smithsonian Institution
Washington, DC   20560-0107
phone (202) 786-2601, FAX (202) 786-2328
email Shelton.Sally at nmnh.si.edu

List owner, PERMIT-L




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