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A pocketful of table salt had emergency responders in a tizzy outside the Comporium office near the intersection of Airport Road and Great Falls Highway (S.C. 200) on Wednesday morning, April 10.
After a search of the building and interviews with employees, the scene was secured and responders learned there was no emergency, said Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office Maj. Matt Shaw.
“They cleaned up and cleared out,” Shaw said. “It wasn’t anything serious. It was table salt.”
Police scanner chatter erupted at about 11 a.m. Wednesday as emergency responders were called to a potential hazardous materials scare at the building.
Within minutes, a contingent of county deputies, members of the Lancaster County Emergency Medical Service, volunteer firefighters, Lancaster Fire Department and Lancaster County Fire Service staff arrived at the scene.
Patrol cars blocked off each entrance with their blue lights flashing onto the building, as medics and firefighters huddled in the parking lots of both the Comporium building and the Family Dollar store across the street.
Lancaster County Fire Marshal Stephen Blackwelder was at the scene, but after a quick conversation with responders, he said the incident was being handled by the sheriff’s office.
A few minutes later, two firefighters in hazmat turnout gear, complete with green boots and air tanks, were seen entering the building. The team searched the building for about 10 minutes before reemerging to speak with deputies and medics.
Nearby, a small group of Comporium employees in yellow shirts sat on a curb waiting for information.
A woman selling tomatoes across the street said she watched as the sheriff’s office arrived first, followed soon after by ambulances and fire trucks.
“Then, the police showed up and the employees came on out,” she said.
Shaw said the 911 call came in as employees were opening mail from the previous night’s deposits.
“They came across an envelope with an unknown substance on it and when they opened it, it caused them some concern,” Shaw said. “They threw it in the trash and called 911.”
He said investigators quickly figured out a man who had dropped off his bill payment the night before left the envelope.
“It turns out the guy works at a grocery store and he cleans up a lot. They have snails there and everyone carries salt in their pockets to clean up the snails,” he said. “The guy had salt on his hands and it got on the envelope and caused them concern.”
Deputies will not be filing any charges in the case.
“There’s no criminal incident, no terrorist incident,” Shaw said. “But you can’t say ‘oh it’s nothing’ until you bring it to someone’s attention.”
Contact reporter Chris Sardelli at (803) 416-8416