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Does the Capitol Dome have a leak? Not quite

Yellow buckets in Rotunda collect dripping water

The Capitol Rotunda was dripping Tuesday morning. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
The Capitol Rotunda was dripping Tuesday morning. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

On day 32 of the longest government shutdown in modern history, it looked like an iconic symbol of American democracy had sprung a leak.

The Capitol Dome, which reaches 287 feet tall, recently underwent a $60 million restoration. But something was amiss Tuesday morning. 

A yellow plastic bucket caught drips of water in the Capitol Rotunda, while employees peered up at the majestic domed ceiling with binoculars, looking at the origin. 

Over the weekend, condensation accumulated on the Dome’s window arches due to the extreme cold. As the temperature rose Tuesday morning, that condensation began to drip, according to Architect of the Capitol spokesperson Erin Courtney.

For safety, buckets and towels were put out in the Rotunda to collect moisture on the floor.

“There is no leak in the Dome,” Courtney told Roll Call in an email.

The Dome restoration was completed in time for the 2017 inauguration ceremonies, and is expected to sustain the more than 150-year-old structure for another 50 years, if not longer.

Water damage is nothing new for the cast-iron Dome; it’s what prompted the restoration in the first place. Starting in the early 1990s, there was a water leak in the Capitol, and rust clogs were found. About 200 or 300 cracks or deficiencies were initially discovered. Once 1,000 were found, the Architect of the Capitol’s office decided to restore the structure.

Then-Architect of the Capitol Stephen T. Ayers told reporters in 2013 that cast iron “continues to rust and rust and rust.”

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