Industrial Spill Shutters Part of U.S. Capitol

Newly elected House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) speaks to the media as Speaker of the House John Boehner (R) listens after House Republican leadership elections in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 19, 2014. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

After various reports of an "industrial spill," the House side of the U.S. Capitol building was blocked off on Thursday morning. Aides and lawmakers were instructed to vacate the area until further notice, but Fox News’s Chad Pergram reports that the House, with the exception of the East Grand staircases, will reopen at noon. Tours are expected to resume then as well.

A statement from the Architect of the Capitol (AOC) faulted asbestos for the reports. Earlier on Thursday, CNN’s Dierdre Walsh reported via Twitter that a portion of the ceiling fell overnight on the fourth floor of the building, releasing a chemical substance that Roll Call’s Hannah Hess reported is indeed asbestos. The Capitol has  been undergoing ongoing asbestos removal, but samples are currently being collected in case of widespread exposure.

Fox News’s Chad Pergram tweeted that the basement of the Capitol was the only floor he was able to access on Thursday morning: “Senior source says they don’t know 'the extent; of industrial spill at Capitol. Air testing going on.” EPA and HAZMAT are currently on the scene investigating the extent of the building damage.

House votes on bills to fund the Energy and Treasury departments this afternoon and evening are expected to continue as scheduled. The Senate side of the Capitol remains open.