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Irritant at Lewiston Post Office was non-toxic, workers released from hospital

LEWISTON - Seven Lewiston Post Office employees were released from a hospital Wednesday afternoon after something discharged into the air and caused them to have burning throats and watery eyes.

An investigation determined that an irritant had been released into the air that was non-toxic.

Lewiston Police Chief Frank Previte said no criminal activity is suspected. He said a continuing investigation would be turned over to the Lewiston postmaster and postal inspector.

"It was localized to a specific area and it's nothing that is toxic or long lasting," said Previte.

A strange odor was reported just after 7:50 a.m. at the post office at 150 South Eighth St. Seven people who had experienced the effects of the irritant were in a back room and were taken to Mount St. Mary's Hospital, where they were temporarily quarantined, while law enforcement and emergency responders tried to identify the substance. All 16 employees were evacuated.

Previte said the seven employees were held in quarantine at Mount St. Mary's Hospital until HazMat teams could determine that the material was non-toxic.

The Erie County HazMat team, State Police Niagara County Sheriff's Office, Lewiston Police and several fire departments and ambulances responded.

Firefighters wash off emergency responders who investigated a strange odor in the Lewiston post office. (Lewiston police)

Firefighters wash off emergency responders who investigated a strange odor in the Lewiston post office. (Lewiston police)

Previte said HazMat found an unknown substance on one of the packages and took air samples. He said they do not believe the substance came from the package.

But what is it and how did it get there?

Previte said that will be the next stage of an internal investigation to be conducted by the Post Office.

"It is possible it was in a package, or it was something mechanical or something employee related. There's no telling at this point," said Previte.

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