An incident, initially described by U.S. Capitol building officials as an “industrial spill” of asbestos, has determined authorities to close down the House side of the building. According to statements made to the press on Thursday morning by senior aides at the House of Representatives, this particular side of the building will stay closed until further notice. Until then, the politicians and politicians’ aides that work there have been instructed to steer clear. The advice came directly from the Architect of the Capitol (AOC), the authority that manages the Capitol Building and oversees its maintenance.
There has been little publicly released information regarding the incident. At first, the only information that reached the media was that an industrial spill had occurred during construction work that aimed to remove asbestos from the Capitol Building. The official statement from the AOC explains that “there was a potential release affecting the House side of the Capitol”. As of the time this article was written, samples of this industrial spill were being collected, in order for the building’s administrators to determine whether or not the potentially toxic substance had spread on ample surfaces on the premises.
At the moment, the AOC is supervising massive renovations to the Capitol Dome, which have been estimated at multi-million dollar costs. The parts of the building which are not undergoing renovation are being cleaned out of asbestos. Though no official has confirmed this information yet, several news reports said the incident in question took place during an effort to remove asbestos from the fourth floor of the Capitol Building. The workers involved in the operation reported seeing something falling but neither witnesses, nor media sources, nor Capitol authorities could specify what the fallen item was.
As of this writing, it remains unclear whether the spill will affect the House proceedings. On Thursday afternoon and evening, for instance, the House was supposed to vote on the approval of expenditure bills. These bills will provide funding for the U.S. Treasury and the Energy department. There will be no disruptions in the proceedings of the Senate, however, which is situated on the opposite (northern) side of the Capitol building. Senate proceedings are expected to go ahead as scheduled on Thursday. In the meantime, the U.S. Capitol Police force will dispatch officers to close off the potentially infested parts of the building, in an effort to keep out visitors, journalists, politicians, and their aides.