Clean-up of 2011 anthrax attacks cost $320 million

A recently released study concludes that it cost approximately $320 million to decontaminate the buildings affected by the 2001 anthrax attacks.

The report, published in the latest issue of the journal Biosecurity and Bioterrorism, was compiled by a team of researchers from Concordia University in Montreal.

The researchers calculated the figure by creating a list of the affected structures and analyzing the decontamination procedures used in each case. Included in the analysis are the costs of sampling and relocating workers.

The team relied primarily on data compiled by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. The GAO findings reported that 26 buildings were tested and seven were remediated. In addition, six corporate offices were also contaminated.

Two large postal distribution centers required complete fumigation because they were known to have handled aerosolized anthrax spores. These were the most costly remediation projects undertaken because of the attacks.

The study suggests that the lack of a single agency to handle the cleanup operations inflated costs and slowed the overall decontamination process. Draft guidelines from the Department of Homeland Security have addressed some of the uncertainties raised during the decontamination process, but others remain, including how best to decontaminate large outdoor spaces.