Everett sewage overflow damage claims keep pouring in

EVERETT — The city is weathering a surge in new damage claims for recent storm-related sewer overflows, pushing the total to 73 as of Tuesday.

That’s about 30 more than last week.

More claims are expected as a result of separate storms that flooded Everett homes and businesses in late August and early September.

The city’s latest claim tally, for example, doesn’t include an estimated $700,000 in damage to the basements of two Snohomish County Public Utility District buildings.

The PUD had to move staff from the basements of two adjacent buildings, including its California Street headquarters.

Drywall, carpet and furnishing need to be replaced, spokesman Bob Bolerjack said Tuesday. There’s also the cost of disinfecting the space, which tested positive for contamination by fecal matter.

The $700,000 damage estimate is “a ballpark figure at this point,” Bolerjack said.

It’s expected to be several weeks before call center and meter readers formerly housed in the two buildings can move back, he said.

The utility is still weighing whether to file a claim with the city or to handle the damage through insurance.

“We encourage people to file claims as soon as possible so we can begin to address their concerns,” Everett city spokeswoman Meghan Pembroke said Tuesday.

Up to two inches of rain fell in some parts of Snohomish County during an approximately two-hour period Aug. 29. Another deluge of nearly comparable intensity fell late Sept. 5 and into the following morning.

The downfall overwhelmed most of Everett’s older sewer systems, which channel stormwater and sewage through the same pipes.

Everett’s leaders have said the city will cover all reasonable claims. A resolution to put that pledge in writing is scheduled for approval at Wednesday’s 6:30 p.m. City Council meeting.

Mayor Ray Stephanson has promised the city will pay for the installation of backwater valves at all homes in the combined sewer area at risk of basement flooding.

“We’ll evaluate homes to determine whether backwater valves are appropriate and plan to begin installing valves by October,” Pembroke said.

A form to request a backwater valve installation is available on the city’s website or by emailing everettpw@everettwa.gov.

This fall, city leaders are scheduled to review hundreds of millions of dollars in future sewer improvements planned over the next several decades.

The most common problems from the storm occurred in homes, where sewage backed up through basement drains and toilets. In one case, the sewer backup blew off a manhole cover on a city street, sending dirty water into nearby houses. Six claims, so far, have come from businesses and other commercial properties.

Cleanup is ongoing at several locations hit hard by the high water.

The Snohomish County Chapter of the American Red Cross estimates roughly $175,000 in damage to its Lombard Avenue office, Executive Director Chuck Morrison said Tuesday. Repairs are expected to take about three months. The damaged space houses disaster services, utility assistance and first-aid and CPR classes.

Cleanup and repairs for two Everett Community College buildings could reach $20,000, said Pat Sisneros, vice president of college services. Most of the expense owes to labor costs.

The first floor of Rainier Hall on Wetmore Avenue flooded during both storms, Sisneros said. The building houses classrooms and offices. Toilets also flooded in Olympus Hall, where college administrators have their offices.

Everett endured similar urban flooding after a June 2010 downpour. The city processed more than 70 damage claims and paid out nearly $1 million to homeowners. Because this year’s storm affected businesses as well as homes, damage totals are likely to be higher.

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

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