HARRISBURG - State government operations were closed again Tuesday as millions of gallons of water gushed from a ruptured main into an industrial park east of the Capitol complex.
City officials, who thought they had fixed the leak Monday, uncovered a second leak on the main water line, prompting Gov. Corbett to shutter the Capitol and order 16,000 state workers to stay home for a second day.
"We thought the problem was resolved, but there was a turn of events last night that forced the city to reduce water consumption, so there would be enough pressure if fire sprinklers were needed," said Dan Egan, spokesman for the Office of Administration. "It's a health and sanitation issue."
Harrisburg's public works director, Ernie Hoch, said crews would be working through the night, hoping to fix the break by the start of business Wednesday.
"Water operations have been stabilized, and next we will repair the break," he said. "Right now, we are leaking a lot of water."
As of Tuesday evening, officials said there were no plans to close the Capitol for an unprecedented third day. The last time the Capitol closed for two straight business days was the record-setting blizzard of 1996.
With the legislature on break until next week, the disruption was less drastic than it might have been on a session day, with dozens of bills to consider and a schedule jam-packed with hearings and rallies.
It helped, too, that some key offices are a mile or more from the Capitol complex. Driver's licensing, for instance, is handled at a Department of Transportation building south of the Capitol and known as "the Rock." Also, many services now are automated, and regional offices around the state were up and running to handle calls from the public.
But problems were mounting in the near-bankrupt city of Harrisburg. Officials issued a boil-water advisory on Monday that was expected to last until at least Thursday, forcing thousands of residents to stockpile bottled water, and dozens of downtown restaurants and bars to close.
Joe Massaro, general manager of the 341-room Hilton Harrisburg, said that as of Tuesday afternoon, the hotel's operations, including service at its restaurant and bar, had not been affected - yet.
"I am hopeful that this won't impact business," Massaro said, but he and others in downtown Harrisburg's were making contingency plans amid reports that the city would be shutting off the water supply overnight as it worked to cure the problem. A city spokesman could not be reached to confirm the shutoff report.
The city was trucking in a million gallons of water a day from outside sources to replenish its fast-depleting reservoirs. And eight water tanker trucks from neighboring communities were on standby - in the event that Harrisburg's fire department needed additional water to battle a blaze.
Harrisburg Hospital, too, kept tanker trucks on standby.
At the Capitol, the busy spring field-trip season ground to a halt as school groups turned away from the state museum for a second day and groups with meetings planned scrambled to find alternative locales.
Constituents trying to contact legislators likely landed in voice mailboxes. In one instance, they got the lawmaker himself.
"I feel like a one-armed paperhanger," said Rep. Rick Geist (R., Blair), juggling multiple phone lines in his otherwise deserted office. "People are asking me, 'What are you doing answering the phones?' "
Geist's three office aides and the staff of the House Transportation Committee were all staying home as ordered. Said Geist, "My schedule is wiped out."
State employees, many working from home, will be paid even though they were not in their offices, said Egan of the Office of Administration.
The water line breaks occurred on a 21-acre site owned by the Camp Hill-based Harsco Corp., which makes a range of industrial products, primarily steel and metal.
Company spokesman Kenneth Julian said a contractor hired by Harsco to do site-preparation work hit an old fire hydrant Sunday while working with heavy equipment.
It was not until workers drained the large pool of water on Tuesday and exposed the pipes that they realized there was a second leak, this one in the main water line.
Julian said Harsco was "doing everything we can to support and assist the work" of the city public-works officials.
Not all of Harrisburg was disrupted. Business bustled in the federal court building two blocks from the Capitol, where Judge John E. Jones 3d of the Third Circuit heard the oath of citizenship from 50 new Americans in naturalization court.
"It may be some kind of record," Jones wrote in an e-mail. "There were so many that their family members overflowed into the hallway."
As for the evolving water crisis, the judge said, "I brought bottled water with my brown-bag lunch."