WILKES-BARRE – Hundreds of employees were forced to wait outside the federal building in Wilkes-Barre for several hours Thursday, after a suspicious packaged was discovered.
That package turned out to be harmless, but it disrupted nearly an entire workday for hundreds of federal employees.
Now Wilkes-Barre police are launching a criminal investigation.
Authorities say inside the package was a substance called glutonic acid. It's something found in sugary drinks. So no one was harmed by it, but authorities say there were not taking any chances.
"We're thankful it proved to be harmless, but it could have went the other way," said Wilkes-Barre Fire Chief Jay Delaney.
Wilkes-Barre city officials cleared the federal building on North Welles Street around 11 a.m. after a suspicious package was found inside.
Workers from the Social Security office contacted authorities, who asked nearly all 350 workers and visitors to go to the parking lot for four hours until they determined what was in the package as a precaution.
Five people who had close contact with the package were quarantined. They were not harmed.
Wilkes-Barre's police chief, the FBI, and several other agencies were called in, the building had to be evacuated, and now, a criminal investigation is underway to see if there was intent to harm.
"Disrupting their lives is harmful, putting them out of their everyday business, whether they were here for hearings or personal business, that's disruptive," said Wilkes-Barre Police Chief Marcella Lendacky.
Federal workers were told to not talk to the media, but one said they were left in the dark about what was happening until just before they were allowed back in the building around 3 p.m.
"A lot of things were being said, so we weren't sure who had the right story, what the truth was, and then a suspicious package, you don't know what to expect anymore."