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July 11, 2014

Parts of Capitol closed after accident

WASHINGTON — An accident involving asbestos work forced a temporary closure of the House side of the Capitol on Thursday and prompted House leaders to delay the day’s session for two hours.

No injuries were reported. The incident occurred around 2:30 a.m. or 3 a.m., Capitol Police said.

A handful of workers were removing insulation containing asbestos from around pipes and valves on the building’s fourth floor, above a staircase, said a congressional official who was not authorized to discuss the matter by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.

On-site samples and another sample analyzed by an outside lab revealed low enough asbestos levels that officials decided the building was safe to reopen, the official said. Those samples revealed levels similar to what is found in typical buildings in Washington, said the official, who did not provide any figures.

By mid-morning, most of the building had reopened and Capitol tours on the House side had resumed. The Senate, at the other end of the 751-foot-long building, seemed unaffected by the incident.

The East Grand Staircase, which runs from the first floor to the third floor inside the House side of the building, was blocked off and more than a dozen workers and officials spent much of the day examining the area. Also closed was the Thomas P. O’Neill Jr. Room, a third-floor room near that staircase that was named for the late speaker and Massachusetts Democrat.

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