Census employee questions safety at processing center in Jeffersonville



Posted on March 31, 2010 at 5:16 PM

Updated Wednesday, Mar 31 at 7:20 PM

Census forms are arriving at the National Processing Center in Jeffersonville by the millions.

The center is providing lots of new jobs in the area, but we've discovered that some employees are afraid because of something else that's arriving in the mail.

Things have changed a lot since 2000 with the threat of terrorism after 9/11, then the subsequent Anthrax scare and now we're seeing an increase in anti-government sentiment.

Because of all that, the Census Processing Center is taking extra security precautions but at least one employee worries that might not be enough.

Inside this heavily guarded building, millions of pieces of mail are arriving weekly.

It's the national processing center for the U.S. Census located in Jeffersonville.

Inside building number 60, 123 employees will open 20% of the nation's census forms.

But a whistleblower, who is speaking on behalf of her good friend who works for the census, says they're finding much more than official government forms inside those envelopes.

“Many, many envelopes that contain material. Nasty notes. Things that are spilled onto the documents, bodily fluids in some cases, things that are powdery substance, sand. And they open then envelopes and this material will come out.”

Since the last Census, the Bureau has enacted more stringent measures to protect workers.

The Anthrax scare of late 2001 led the Census to develop a plan that includes involvement by local police departments, fire departments, the FBI, hospitals and Hazmat teams.

The woman who we'll call "Sherry' is speaking out because her friend can't by law.  She signed a confidentiality agreement.

“There have been 5 or 6 lockdowns in the last two weeks,” she said.

We've been told that nothing harmful was found during any of those incidents but on one occasion, a woman's existing medical condition may have been aggravated by a substance coming from an envelope.

The people are afraid but they need their job. So I think it's something that needs to be brought to light.”

National Processing Center Director David Backbarth would not agree to an on camera interview, he released a statement that said "The National Processing Center has standard safety and security procedures in place to manage the current high volume of mail receipts. The safety and security of our employees remains our highest priority."

Sherry says she hopes it's enough to protect all those working inside.