Suspicious Substance At Justice Center Causes Hazmat Response

The Bucks County Justice Center was evacuated after an envelope containing a suspicious white substance was found.

The outside of the Bucks County Justice Center in Doylestown Borough as the situation was unfolding.
Credit: Submitted

A suspicious substance in an envelope caused a scare at the Bucks County Justice Center on Monday afternoon.

At 3:56 p.m., an employee of the Bucks County Prothonotary’s Office opened a piece of mail that had arrived. As the employee opened the envelope addressed to the office, a granulated white substance fell out, officials said.

Bucks County Prothonotary Coleen Christian told the employee informed the staff and the Bucks County Sheriff’s Office, who provide security for the Justice Center in Doylestown Borough.

Christian said the sheriff’s deputies responded and advised the staff exposed to step outside while measures were taken to secure the envelope and the substance in it.

Firefighters and the Bucks County Hazmat Team responded to the building and began testing the substance.

“The Prothonotary’s office was evacuated.  The adjacent office, the Clerk of Courts, also closed early, at about 4:15 p.m. and all of its employees left the building. After confirming these facts and consulting with the President Judge, all court employees were asked to leave the Justice Center shortly after 4:30 p.m.,” Court of Common Pleas Administrator Stephen Watson said.

James O’Malley, a county government spokesperson, said the substance was determined by testing to be granulated sugar.

“No employees or visitors to the Justice Center were ever at risk,” Watson said.

The hazmat technicians used a special piece of equipment to test for potential dangerous substances, Christian said.

No county employees, responders, or visitors needed medical attention, O’Malley said.

Christian said the response was out of an “abundance of caution.”

File photo

The prothonotary, whose job is to docket, scan, and process civil and family court documents, explained that she was glad the substance was not dangerous.

The Bucks County Detectives have been assigned to investigate the incident.

Christian said the granulated sugar came in an envelope with a court filing and had the sender’s address and a check made out to the county in it.

Due to the items that came in the envelope, Christian said she didn’t believe the sender had bad intentions and may have been eating something sugary as they were putting the mail together.

The incident comes a little more than a year after a suspicious substance was mailed to the Bucks County Board of Elections office.

Christian thanked the responders who came to the scene.

“The court appreciates the quick action of the prothonotary’s office and of the first responders who cleared the area and conducted a prompt investigation. Absent any intervening developments, the Justice Center will be open to the public tomorrow,” Watson said.

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Tom Sofield

Tom Sofield has covered news in Bucks County for 12 years for both newspaper and online publications. Tom’s reporting has appeared locally, nationally, and internationally across several mediums. He is proud to report on news in the county where he lives and to have created a reliable publication that the community deserves.