Earthquake damage likely cause of Washington Monument elevator breakdowns

In this file photo, a U.S. Park Service helicopter flies in front of the Washington Monument in Washington, on Aug. 23, 2011, after it was evacuated following an earthquake in the Washington area. White marble and mortar on the 555-foot obelisk cracked and shook loose during the quake. Repairs to the stone cost $15 million but didn't address the elevator that takes tourists up to the observation deck inside. National Park Service officials believe that damage from the quake is likely contributing to ongoing mechanical problems with the elevator. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
In this file photo, a U.S. Park Service helicopter flies in front of the Washington Monument in Washington, on Aug. 23, 2011, after it was evacuated following an earthquake in the Washington area. White marble and mortar on the 555-foot obelisk cracked and shook loose during the quake. Repairs to the stone cost $15 million but didn’t address the elevator that takes tourists up to the observation deck inside. National Park Service officials believe that damage from the quake is likely contributing to ongoing mechanical problems with the elevator. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/Jacquelyn Martin)
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 23:  U.S. Park Police work to keep people away from the area surrounding the Washington Monument after a 5.8 magnitude earthquake struck the east coast August 23, 2011 in Washington, DC. Police officers said that unidentified material had fallen off the Washington Monument as a result of the earthquake. All the monuments and buildings along the National Mall have been evacuated and closed.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
In this file photo, U.S. Park Police work to keep people away from the area surrounding the Washington Monument after a 5.8 magnitude earthquake struck the east coast August 23, 2011 in Washington, DC. Police officers said that unidentified material had fallen off the Washington Monument as a result of the earthquake. All the monuments and buildings along the National Mall have been evacuated and closed. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) (Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla)
People use the stairs to evacuate a building in Washington, Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2011, after an earthquake hit the Washington area. The 5.9 magnitude earthquake centered northwest of Richmond, Va., shook much of Washington, D.C., and was felt as far north as Rhode Island and New York City.  (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
In this file photo, people use the stairs to evacuate a building in Washington, Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2011, after an earthquake hit the Washington area. The 5.9 magnitude earthquake centered northwest of Richmond, Va., shook much of Washington, D.C., and was felt as far north as Rhode Island and New York City. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/Charles Dharapak)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 03:  Difficult Access Team (DAT) engineers with Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates examine stones of the Washington Monument for cracks October 3, 2011 in Washington, DC. The DAT team continued the inspection of the monument to check for more damage caused by the 5.8-magnitude earthquake on August 23, 2011.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
In this file photo, Difficult Access Team (DAT) engineers with Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates examine stones of the Washington Monument for cracks October 3, 2011 in Washington, DC. The DAT team continued the inspection of the monument to check for more damage caused by the 5.8-magnitude earthquake on August 23, 2011. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images) (Getty Images/Alex Wong)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 03:  Difficult Access Team (DAT) engineers with Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates examine stones of the Washington Monument for cracks October 3, 2011 in Washington, DC. The DAT team continued the inspection of the monument to check for more damage caused by the 5.8-magnitude earthquake on August 23, 2011.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
In this file photo, Difficult Access Team (DAT) engineers with Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates examine stones of the Washington Monument for cracks October 3, 2011 in Washington, DC. The DAT team continued the inspection of the monument to check for more damage caused by the 5.8-magnitude earthquake on August 23, 2011. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images) (Getty Images/Alex Wong)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 03:  Difficult Access Team (DAT) engineers with Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates examine stones of the Washington Monument for cracks October 3, 2011 in Washington, DC. The DAT team continued the inspection of the monument to check for more damage caused by the 5.8-magnitude earthquake on August 23, 2011.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
In this file photo, Difficult Access Team (DAT) engineers with Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates examine stones of the Washington Monument for cracks October 3, 2011 in Washington, DC. The DAT team continued the inspection of the monument to check for more damage caused by the 5.8-magnitude earthquake on August 23, 2011. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images) (Getty Images/Alex Wong)
FILE -  In this Sept. 29, 2011 file photo, Dan Lemieux, manager of the Washington Monument inspection project, holds a loose chunk of marble off the monument damaged by an earthquake Aug. 23 earthquake. Researchers in a nationwide study of earthquakes will soon place new instruments in Georgia and other eastern states as they seek to learn more about what causes them and where they might strike. Scientists involved in the study say the recent earthquake in Virginia, which cracked the Washington Monument, has led to a renewed emphasis on trying to understand more about what lies below the Earth's surface in eastern states. (AP Photo/Ben Nuckols, File)
In this Sept. 29, 2011 file photo, Dan Lemieux, manager of the Washington Monument inspection project, holds a loose chunk of marble off the monument damaged by an earthquake Aug. 23 earthquake. Researchers in a nationwide study of earthquakes will soon place new instruments in Georgia and other eastern states as they seek to learn more about what causes them and where they might strike. Scientists involved in the study say the recent earthquake in Virginia, which cracked the Washington Monument, has led to a renewed emphasis on trying to understand more about what lies below the Earth’s surface in eastern states. (AP Photo/Ben Nuckols, File) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/Ben Nuckols)
FILE - In this June 2, 2013 file photo, Bob Collie, project manager with Perini Management Services, puts his finger in a crack of the Washington Monument at the 491-foot level of the scaffolding surrounding the monument, in Washington. The monument, which sustained damage from an earthquake in August 2011, will re-open to the public on Monday, May 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
In this June 2, 2013 file photo, Bob Collie, project manager with Perini Management Services, puts his finger in a crack of the Washington Monument at the 491-foot level of the scaffolding surrounding the monument, in Washington. The monument, which sustained damage from an earthquake in August 2011, will re-open to the public on Monday, May 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File) (AP/Alex Brandon)
A missing corner of a stone is seen in the Washington Monument at the 491-foot level of the scaffolding surrounding the monument, Sunday, June 2, 2013 in Washington. The monument has been closed since the 2011 earthquake and half of the needed repairs have been funded by a $7.5 million donation from philanthropist David Rubenstein. The Associated Press had a look at some of the worst damage and the preparations underway to begin making repairs. Stone by stone, engineers are reviewing cracks, missing pieces and broken mortar now that huge scaffolding has been built around the towering symbol of the nation’s capital. Once each trouble spot is identified, repairs can begin.  (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
In this file photo, a missing corner of a stone is seen in the Washington Monument at the 491-foot level of the scaffolding surrounding the monument, Sunday, June 2, 2013 in Washington. The monument has been closed since the 2011 earthquake and half of the needed repairs have been funded by a $7.5 million donation from philanthropist David Rubenstein. The Associated Press had a look at some of the worst damage and the preparations underway to begin making repairs. Stone by stone, engineers are reviewing cracks, missing pieces and broken mortar now that huge scaffolding has been built around the towering symbol of the nation’s capital. Once each trouble spot is identified, repairs can begin. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) (AP/Alex Brandon)
In this file photo, a missing corner of a stone is seen in the Washington Monument at the 491-foot level of the scaffolding surrounding the monument, Sunday, June 2, 2013 in Washington. The monument has been closed since the 2011 earthquake and half of the needed repairs have been funded by a $7.5 million donation from philanthropist David Rubenstein. The Associated Press had a look at some of the worst damage and the preparations underway to begin making repairs. Stone by stone, engineers are reviewing cracks, missing pieces and broken mortar now that huge scaffolding has been built around the towering symbol of the nation’s capital. Once each trouble spot is identified, repairs can begin. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) (AP/Alex Brandon)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 10: (EDITORS NOTE: Image embargoed until 6pm, May 11, 2014) One of the saddle anchors that were installed to secure the pyramidion panels for seizmic strenghthening at the top of the Washington Monument is seen during a preview tour for the media prior to its reopening on May 10, 2014 in Washington, DC. The Monument has been closed since August 23, 2011 when a 5.8 magnitude earthquake struck 84 miles southwest of the Nation's Capitol. The Monument is scheduled to reopen to the public on Monday May 12. (Photo by Pete Marovich/Getty Images)
In this file photo, one of the saddle anchors that were installed to secure the pyramidion panels for seizmic strenghthening at the top of the Washington Monument is seen during a preview tour for the media prior to its reopening on May 10, 2014 in Washington, DC. The Monument has been closed since August 23, 2011 when a 5.8 magnitude earthquake struck 84 miles southwest of the Nation’s Capitol. The Monument is scheduled to reopen to the public on Monday May 12. (Photo by Pete Marovich/Getty Images) (Getty Images/Pete Marovich)
Philanthropist David Rubenstein, left, and Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, stand during an interview with The Associated Press at the 491-foot level of the scaffolding surrounding the Washington Monument, Sunday, June 2, 2013 in Washington. The monument has been closed since the 2011 earthquake and half of the needed repairs have been funded by a $7.5 million donation from Rubenstein. The Associated Press had a look at some of the worst damage and the preparations underway to begin making repairs. Stone by stone, engineers are reviewing cracks, missing pieces and broken mortar now that huge scaffolding has been built around the towering symbol of the nation’s capital. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
In this file photo, philanthropist David Rubenstein, left, and Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, stand during an interview with The Associated Press at the 491-foot level of the scaffolding surrounding the Washington Monument, Sunday, June 2, 2013 in Washington. The monument has been closed since the 2011 earthquake and half of the needed repairs have been funded by a $7.5 million donation from Rubenstein. The Associated Press had a look at some of the worst damage and the preparations underway to begin making repairs. Stone by stone, engineers are reviewing cracks, missing pieces and broken mortar now that huge scaffolding has been built around the towering symbol of the nation’s capital. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) (AP/Alex Brandon)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 10: (EDITORS NOTE: Image embargoed until 6pm, May 11, 2014) James Perry, chief of resource management for the National Mall and Memorial Parks, speaks to the media and talks about one of the cracks that was repaired in the Washingtonton Monument (seen in the background at right) during a preview tour for the media prior to the its reopening on May 10, 2014 in Washington, DC. The Monument has been closed since August 23, 2011 when a 5.8 magnitude earthquake struck 84 miles southwest of the Nation's Capitol. The Monument is scheduled to reopen to the public on Monday May 12. (Photo by Pete Marovich/Getty Images)
In this file photo, James Perry, chief of resource management for the National Mall and Memorial Parks, speaks to the media and talks about one of the cracks that was repaired in the Washingtonton Monument (seen in the background at right) during a preview tour for the media prior to the its reopening on May 10, 2014 in Washington, DC. The Monument has been closed since August 23, 2011 when a 5.8 magnitude earthquake struck 84 miles southwest of the Nation’s Capitol. The Monument is scheduled to reopen to the public on Monday May 12. (Photo by Pete Marovich/Getty Images) (Getty Images/Pete Marovich)
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In this file photo, a U.S. Park Service helicopter flies in front of the Washington Monument in Washington, on Aug. 23, 2011, after it was evacuated following an earthquake in the Washington area. White marble and mortar on the 555-foot obelisk cracked and shook loose during the quake. Repairs to the stone cost $15 million but didn't address the elevator that takes tourists up to the observation deck inside. National Park Service officials believe that damage from the quake is likely contributing to ongoing mechanical problems with the elevator. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 23:  U.S. Park Police work to keep people away from the area surrounding the Washington Monument after a 5.8 magnitude earthquake struck the east coast August 23, 2011 in Washington, DC. Police officers said that unidentified material had fallen off the Washington Monument as a result of the earthquake. All the monuments and buildings along the National Mall have been evacuated and closed.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
People use the stairs to evacuate a building in Washington, Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2011, after an earthquake hit the Washington area. The 5.9 magnitude earthquake centered northwest of Richmond, Va., shook much of Washington, D.C., and was felt as far north as Rhode Island and New York City.  (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 03:  Difficult Access Team (DAT) engineers with Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates examine stones of the Washington Monument for cracks October 3, 2011 in Washington, DC. The DAT team continued the inspection of the monument to check for more damage caused by the 5.8-magnitude earthquake on August 23, 2011.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 03:  Difficult Access Team (DAT) engineers with Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates examine stones of the Washington Monument for cracks October 3, 2011 in Washington, DC. The DAT team continued the inspection of the monument to check for more damage caused by the 5.8-magnitude earthquake on August 23, 2011.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 03:  Difficult Access Team (DAT) engineers with Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates examine stones of the Washington Monument for cracks October 3, 2011 in Washington, DC. The DAT team continued the inspection of the monument to check for more damage caused by the 5.8-magnitude earthquake on August 23, 2011.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
FILE -  In this Sept. 29, 2011 file photo, Dan Lemieux, manager of the Washington Monument inspection project, holds a loose chunk of marble off the monument damaged by an earthquake Aug. 23 earthquake. Researchers in a nationwide study of earthquakes will soon place new instruments in Georgia and other eastern states as they seek to learn more about what causes them and where they might strike. Scientists involved in the study say the recent earthquake in Virginia, which cracked the Washington Monument, has led to a renewed emphasis on trying to understand more about what lies below the Earth's surface in eastern states. (AP Photo/Ben Nuckols, File)
FILE - In this June 2, 2013 file photo, Bob Collie, project manager with Perini Management Services, puts his finger in a crack of the Washington Monument at the 491-foot level of the scaffolding surrounding the monument, in Washington. The monument, which sustained damage from an earthquake in August 2011, will re-open to the public on Monday, May 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
A missing corner of a stone is seen in the Washington Monument at the 491-foot level of the scaffolding surrounding the monument, Sunday, June 2, 2013 in Washington. The monument has been closed since the 2011 earthquake and half of the needed repairs have been funded by a $7.5 million donation from philanthropist David Rubenstein. The Associated Press had a look at some of the worst damage and the preparations underway to begin making repairs. Stone by stone, engineers are reviewing cracks, missing pieces and broken mortar now that huge scaffolding has been built around the towering symbol of the nation’s capital. Once each trouble spot is identified, repairs can begin.  (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 10: (EDITORS NOTE: Image embargoed until 6pm, May 11, 2014) One of the saddle anchors that were installed to secure the pyramidion panels for seizmic strenghthening at the top of the Washington Monument is seen during a preview tour for the media prior to its reopening on May 10, 2014 in Washington, DC. The Monument has been closed since August 23, 2011 when a 5.8 magnitude earthquake struck 84 miles southwest of the Nation's Capitol. The Monument is scheduled to reopen to the public on Monday May 12. (Photo by Pete Marovich/Getty Images)
Philanthropist David Rubenstein, left, and Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, stand during an interview with The Associated Press at the 491-foot level of the scaffolding surrounding the Washington Monument, Sunday, June 2, 2013 in Washington. The monument has been closed since the 2011 earthquake and half of the needed repairs have been funded by a $7.5 million donation from Rubenstein. The Associated Press had a look at some of the worst damage and the preparations underway to begin making repairs. Stone by stone, engineers are reviewing cracks, missing pieces and broken mortar now that huge scaffolding has been built around the towering symbol of the nation’s capital. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 10: (EDITORS NOTE: Image embargoed until 6pm, May 11, 2014) James Perry, chief of resource management for the National Mall and Memorial Parks, speaks to the media and talks about one of the cracks that was repaired in the Washingtonton Monument (seen in the background at right) during a preview tour for the media prior to the its reopening on May 10, 2014 in Washington, DC. The Monument has been closed since August 23, 2011 when a 5.8 magnitude earthquake struck 84 miles southwest of the Nation's Capitol. The Monument is scheduled to reopen to the public on Monday May 12. (Photo by Pete Marovich/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — Damage to the Washington Monument from the 2011 earthquake continues to plague the historic landmark despite $15 million and almost three years spent on repairs.

National Park Service officials now believe that earthquake damage could be contributing to the ongoing mechanical problems with the elevator inside the monument, said spokesman Mike Litterst.

“The effects of the earthquake, including moisture seeping in through cracks, may have had a greater impact on the elevator system than originally believed and may be at least partially responsible for the earlier than anticipated replacement of the control system, currently underway,” he writes in an email to WTOP.

D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton said she worries that the frequent monument closures will hurt tourism and the local economy. She’s planning to meet with park service officials this week to learn more about the root cause of the elevator issues, suggesting that a lack of funding from Congress might also have contributed to the delay in replacing elevator equipment.

Elevator outages have closed the monument to the public repeatedly this year.

The monument most recently closed on Aug. 17 after a compensation cable that stabilizes the elevator unexpectedly broke loose. A 10-day closure was ordered so that the crews could plan for a new control system, inspect and clean the elevator shaft, check the circuit breakers and inspect and repair fans at the top of the elevator.

Two weekends ago, computer issues with the control system left three park employees stuck in the elevator for 40 minutes. Dozens of visitors had to exit the observation deck using the stairs.

Elevator problems closed the monument three times last year.

The 20-year-old mechanical system that controls the elevator was not replaced as part of the earthquake repairs, which addressed damage to the stone and masonry that form the 555-foot obelisk.

The landmark is structurally sound, Litterst said.

The 5.8-magnitude earthquake centered in Mineral, Virginia, and also damaged the National Cathedral and Union Station.

WTOP’s Neal Augenstein contributed to this report.

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