Powdery substance found in letter sent to state senator

hazmat situation at texas capitol
Special Operations units from the Austin Fire Department setup outside the Texas State Capitol. (KXAN Photo\Mark Batchelder)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — An unknown powdery substance found in a letter mailed to a senator prompted Capitol officials to call in the Hazardous Materials Team to the building in Downtown Austin Wednesday.

Sen. Kel Seliger’s office confirmed the letter was sent to his office. Department of Public Safety officials said it was mailed from a state prison. They later determined the substance was not dangerous.

DPS officials said they got the call about 11:30 a.m., and crews began clearing scene around 2 p.m. after testing showed the substance was not a threat.

The letter was found in east wing of the Capitol in the basement. The Austin Fire Department cordoned off that section of the basement during the investigation, but the building was not evacuated.

Seliger, a Republican from Amarillo, was in his district on Wednesday and not at the Capitol. He said there are several Texas Department of Criminal Justice facilities in his district and he often gets letters from inmates asking to be transferred, but added that had did not know why someone would send something like this.

The senator chairs the Senate Higher Education Committee and co-chairs the Joint Committee on Higher Education Governance, Excellence and Transparency.

In those roles, he has been vocal of University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers’ resignation as an acceptable conclusion to the school’s controversy.

Just a few weeks ago, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst appointed him to co-chair the Joint Interim Committee to Study Education for a Skilled Workforce – a group that will focus on career and tech education programs at public schools.

Seliger was formerly a four-term Mayor of Amarillo and made his living in the steel industry.

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