A major asbestos abatement project is well underway at the Russell and Dirksen Senate office buildings in Washington. In February, the Architect of the Capitol began removing materials containing asbestos from the buildings. The goal of the first phase of the project was to remove waterproofing that contained asbestos from the northwest terrace of the Russell Building at the corner of Delaware Avenue and C Street NE and asbestos floor tiles in the Dirksen Building. The second phase of the project concerned another portion of the Russell building, where asbestos ductwork above the basement ceiling was the target.
Regarding safety, the Senate Superintendent’s Office released a memo stating that the asbestos abatement would only take place “overnight, not during typical work hours.” Areas where the abatement will occur would be “fully enclosed with a sealed containment and property identified to avoid unauthorized access.”
The memo also said that, “there will be constant air monitoring inside and outside the containment area, done by a licensed industrial hygienist.” Asbestos abatement work will be overseen by an “EPA-accredited asbestos supervisor,” and “all necessary precautions will be taken to ensure Senate staff and public safety,” the memo said.
For decades, “asbestos remediation problems have nagged the Capitol complex with many areas of the historic buildings packed with the material,” said a Roll Call report. The most recent asbestos scares on Capitol Hill occurred between 2012 and 2016.
- In 2012, 10 AOC employees working in tunnels in the Capitol complex settled a major lawsuit against their employer for multi-year exposure to asbestos that caused lifelong debilitating health conditions.
- In July 2014, an asbestos spill occurred during abatement work, temporarily closing the House side of the Capitol. After that, unions representing AOC workers and the Capitol Police expressed concern about workers’ exposure to the carcinogen.
- In 2015, the Cannon Building was evacuated for a potential asbestos leak related to construction that was part of a major ongoing renovation of the oldest House office building.
- In 2016, a duct in the attic of the Capitol separated, prompting the air to be shut off. Air samples were collected and analyzed by an independent hygienist, who determined they were below the regulatory limit.
The Senate Superintendent’s Office said that the abatement project on the Russell and Dirksen buildings is scheduled to continue through April.
If you have been exposed to asbestos, see your doctor right away. Your doctor can refer you to specialist who can assess your risk of developing mesothelioma and set up a monitoring plan that could help detect the disease sooner. There is no cure for mesothelioma. However, early detection could lead to better treatment options and outcomes, so talk to your doctor today.
“Dirksen Senate Office Building.” Senate.gov. United States Senate, 2019. Web. 02 Apr. 2019.
“Russell Senate Office Building.” Senate.gov. United States Senate, 2019. Web. 02 Apr. 2019.
Tilly-McManus, Katherine and Bridget Bowman. “Asbestos removal set to begin in Russell, Dirksen buildings.” Rollcall.com. FiscalNote, 14 Feb. 2019. Web. 02 Apr. 2019.