Everett beaches reopen after sewage spill

EVERETT — Two local beaches reopened Monday for the first time since a sewage spill last week, while Everett officials worked on short- and long-term repairs.

A lift-station pipe broke Thursday, causing an estimated 865,000 gallons of untreated wastewater to flow into Port Gardner near Pigeon Creek. The spill lasted about 11 hours.

By the weekend, bacteria levels had returned to normal at Howarth Park and Pigeon Creek beach, public works spokeswoman Marla Carter said. The city kept those areas closed until Monday morning as a precaution.

The latest sewage mishap was considered in the middle range of spills in terms of severity.

“We’ve had ones that were much worse and we’ve had ones that were less,” Carter said.

Public works crews set up temporary above-ground pipes to route sewage to a lift station near Kimberly-Clark’s former waterfront mill, she said. They hope to complete the lift-station fixes this week.

The latest spill was unrelated to storm-related sewer flooding last August and September that generated about 200 damage claims by homeowners and businesses.

City leaders have blamed last year’s overflows on unusually heavy rain. They’ve also acknowledged a need to update portions of a combined sewer and stormwater system that serves older parts of the city. Problems crop up when heavy rain overwhelms the system, sending a mix of sewage and storm runoff into Possession Sound and sometimes into basements.

As an interim fix, the city hired contractors to install backwater valves near buildings at risk of flooding.

Extensive infrastructure fixes are needed, but it would be too expensive and time-consuming to undertake a total overhaul. City staff in February estimated that it would cost more than $1 billion and take three decades to separate all of Everett’s combined sewers. The least expensive option to address basement flooding was pegged at $283 million over a decade.

Public works staff members hope to follow up on that discussion during a City Council meeting next month, Carter said. The information will help city leaders finalize a 10-year plan for building and maintaining sewer infrastructure.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

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