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Highlights

The Architect of the Capitol (AOC), through the Capitol Power Plant, operates five walkable utility tunnels containing steam and chilled water pipes associated with serving the heating and cooling requirements of the U.S. Capitol and over 20 surrounding facilities. In our work last fall, we addressed conditions in the tunnels and AOC's plans for addressing them. The Office of Compliance (OOC), which is responsible for advancing safety, health, and workplace rights in the legislative branch, and the tunnel workers had raised concerns about health and safety issues in the tunnels. As a result of these concerns, in January 2006, OOC issued citations for and asked AOC to address a potential asbestos hazard and heat stress conditions in the tunnels. In addition, in February 2006, OOC filed a complaint against AOC concerning hazards in the tunnels, including falling concrete, an inadequate communication system for these confined spaces, and inadequate escape exits (egresses). According to OOC officials, these conditions had been brought to AOC's attention by OOC inspectors as early as 1999, but AOC had not made sufficient progress in addressing them, and conditions in the tunnels had deteriorated further. In June 2007, AOC reached a settlement agreement with OOC to resolve both the citations and the complaint. The settlement agreement calls for the problems in the tunnels to be resolved within 5 years of the settlement date. This testimony focuses on the projects and other steps AOC is taking to address the tunnel problems and the current schedule and estimated costs for the tunnel projects.

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