Health officials release information on white powder sent to Pine County Courthouse

By KBJR News 1

November 20, 2013 Updated Nov 22, 2013 at 1:39 PM CDT

Pine City, MN (NNCNOW.com) -- Tests from the Minnesota Department of Health indicate that the white powder sent to the Pine County Courthouse earlier this week contained the presence of a kind of Bacillus bacteria.

There are two kinds of Bacillus bacteria, both of which occur naturally in the environment and are often found in the soil and on plants. Neither kind is considered a significant health risk.

However, people who consume food contaminated with Bacillus Cereus (one of the types of the bacteria) have been known to experience food borne illness symptoms inducing diarrhea and vomiting. Health officials say other types of exposure to this bacteria would not be expected to have any adverse health effects.

No illnesses are currently linked to the incident at the Pine County Courthouse and it is not contagious. The test results from the Health Department also ruled out any bio-terrorism organisms.

The Pine County Sheriff's Office says their investigators are working to identify the suspect or suspects involved in sending the white powder to the courthouse.

On Tuesday, the Pine County Courthouse was evacuated and a haz-mat team called to investigate the powder.

The department is still waiting for photos of the notes to turn over to investigators, and it remains unclear at this time what was written on the notes.

On Tuesday, the prosecutor in the Richard Jouppi assault trial was in the midst of questioning his fifth witness around 1:45pm when a bailiff came in and handed a note to the judge.

Judge John DeSanto immediately told everyone in the room that court was adjourned and instructed everyone to leave the building immediately.

Two hundred people were evacuated from the building, and the courthouse was shut down for the remainder of the day.

Blackwell says it's unfortunate an event like this occurred, but they want the public to know they take threats like this very seriously.

"We do take them very serious. The evacuation went very well. We isolated the envelopes where they were and got the proper authorities here. So, we're very happy how that turned out, not happy with what happened, but we are still following the investigation on that."

Blackwell says the incident does not appear to be connected to the high profile trial currently underway against Duluth Police Officer Richard Jouppi.

Written and posted to the web by Raeanna Marnati