HAZMAT and emergency medical crews were called to Beth El School in Pikesville for a report of a suspicious package. (Colin Campbell / Baltimore Sun)
Hazmat crews and police responded to reports of suspicious packages — one of which caused people to be nauseated upon opening it — at three synagogues in Baltimore County on Monday, officials said.
Parents and emergency hazmat crews responded about 1:45 p.m. to Beth El Synagogue, which operates the Pauline Mash School For Early Childhood Education at its complex at 8101 Park Heights Ave., after two adults became nauseated upon opening an envelope sent to the synagogue, officials said.
The nature of the substance that caused the reaction was not clear, and tests for poisonous substances in the building were negative, said Elise Armacost, a Baltimore County Fire Department spokeswoman.
“They opened some kind of an envelope that arrived, I believe, through the mail, and they immediately began complaining of feeling ill,” Armacost said outside the school Monday.
Thirty-three staff members and 78 children were inside the building during the incident Monday, Armacost said.
Mandy Barish, director of the early childhood school, wrote in an email to parents that “there is NO threat to the infant and toddler and preschool.”
“We are following standard procedures and doing due diligence and will keep you updated,” Barish’s email said.
A woman who answered the phone at the school said Barish was not available for an interview and declined to comment.
In a separate incident an hour later, hazmat crews were called to the Beth Isaac Adath Israel Congregation at 4398 Crest Heights Road, for a report of a suspicious package.
No injuries or illnesses were reported, and no dangerous substance was found in that incident.
In the third instance, Baltimore County police responded to the Har Sinai Congregation located in the 2905 Walnut Ave. for a suspicious envelope. Police said the congregation had received the letter a week ago and reported it to police Monday after receiving information of the other incidents. The envelope did not contain hazardous substances, according to police, and a letter — similar in nature to the previous incident — did not include a threat.
Dave Fitz, spokesman for the Baltimore field office of the FBI, said the agency is monitoring the situation, but he declined to share any further details.
“We’re aware of those letters, and we’ve been in contact with local authorities,” Fitz said.