A SAMPLE product to deodorise rubbish bins has kicked up a stink with two North Coast councils.

Yesterday the Clarence Valley and Coffs Harbour council buildings were evacuated about 8.30am when staff discovered an unidentified white powder in an envelope delivered in the mail.

In Grafton the staff closely followed evacuation procedures, leaving their desks and marshalling outside the Prince St building.

Police remove a bin containing the suspicious white powder found in a letter to the Clarence Valley Council this morning. Photo Tim Howard / Daily Examiner
Police remove a bin containing the suspicious white powder found in a letter to the Clarence Valley Council this morning. Photo Tim Howard / Daily Examiner Tim Howard

For the next two hours emergency services personnel swung into action, scouring the building and recovering the suspicious powder in special bins.

But it was all much ado about nothing, said Coffs Clarence Crime Commander Detective Inspector Darren Jameson.  

Det Insp Jameson said the powder was nothing more dangerous than an organic substance being marketed as a rubbish bin deodoriser.

"Hundreds of these samples had been sent out to councils all over NSW," he said.

"It seems the automatic letter opener has caught the sample packet inside the envelope, spilling the contents."

He said police will be taking no further action on the matter.

Despite the false alarm, the detective inspector praised both councils for the way staff handled the situation.

"The way the both handled the incidents was exemplary," he said.

"The professionalism and calmness they showed resulted in both buildings being cleared, allowing emergency services personnel to get in and do their job."

Clarence Valley Council general manager Scott Greensill talks to the four staff kept in isolation after discovering white powder in a mail delivered to the council records room.Photo Tim Howard / Daily Examiner
Clarence Valley Council general manager Scott Greensill talks to the four staff kept in isolation after discovering white powder in a mail delivered to the council records room.Photo Tim Howard / Daily Examiner Tim Howard

Clarence Valley Council general manager Scott Greensill said four staff in the records room, where the powder was discovered, were placed in isolation, initially marked on the footpath outside their work place.

The staff, a man and three women, were later placed under observation at Grafton Base Hospital and were to undergo blood tests.

Mr Greensill said council staff formed up in their allocated marshalling area on Memorial Park. Later they went to the council's Victoria St offices to continue work as best they could.

Staff began returning to work about 10.20am after a two-hour delay to their day.

Grafton Fire Brigade and Ambulance also attended the council chambers.

Fire brigade station officer Col Drayton said his staff put into practice its procedures for dealing with hazardous materials. He said two men put on protective clothing and breathing apparatus before entering the building.

"They secured the material in to specially sealed containers and handed them over to police for further analysis," he said.

On leaving the building both firemen were given a decontamination shower on the footpath outside the council chambers.



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