A mysterious substance found in an envelope at the Social Security office Friday forced the federal agency to close its doors to the public until law enforcement officials determined it did not pose a safety threat.
The parking lot was filled with numerous officers from the U.S. Homeland Security Department, S.C. Law Enforcement Division, FBI and local first responders who spent several hours putting security protocols into place before a hazardous material team was sent inside to investigate and test the unknown substance.
“It was deemed not to be a credible threat at this time; it’s an undetermined substance,” said Conway Police Lt. Selena Small.
Social Security employees remained on site until the substance was tested, and they remained there afterward to speak with investigators about the origin of the envelope.
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Small could not confirm whether the envelope was sent through the mail or left behind in the office, but said that it was found by an employee.
Dozens of area residents were already lined up at the door at 8 a.m. to drop off documents or keep appointments with agency officials.
Patti Patterson, regional communications director for the Social Security Administration, said the office was closed out of an abundance of caution.
Residents who needed to conduct business with the agency were advised to go to the Georgetown office or file paperwork through the website, Patterson said.
Several residents who showed up later in the morning expressed frustration upon finding the office doors locked, especially since the Social Security Administration is scheduled to be closed Monday because of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday.
Vicki Atkinson said she made a 40-minute trip from Murrells Inlet to file disability paperwork that was due Friday.
“What really makes me mad is, I don’t have the money to run up and down the roads like this,” Atkinson said.
Added another senior citizen from North Myrtle Beach who was upset to find the office closed: “What is this, Friday the 13th?”
The Conway Police Department is leading the investigation into the origins of the envelope. Federal law enforcement officials were on site because they are responsible for the agency’s security, and an ambulance was on standby while the substance was tested.