Work starts on sewage-flooded Lynnwood condos

LYNNWOOD — Work began this week to protect a Lynnwood condominium complex from repeated sewage flooding, after the condo owners waived their rights to sue the city.

The owners at Casa Del Rey, a 46-unit complex on 56th Avenue W. near Scriber Lake, also agreed to pay up to $20,000 of the construction costs, documents show.

The owners still don’t think they should have to pay, but they had no money for a lawsuit and they couldn’t subject residents to additional flooding, condo board member Eric Whitehead said. The board took the matter to a vote for all the condo owners.

“From the very beginning of this, we didn’t see how this was our fault in any way and why we should have to participate monetarily,” he said. “Everybody pretty much voted out of fear.”

The condo owners already had spent $26,000 on sewage cleanup and nearly $6,000 on legal fees before the Dec. 20 agreement, Whitehead said. Their estimates showed fighting a lawsuit could cost $90,000.

“Nobody liked it,” Whitehead said. “Everybody felt bad voting one way or another.”

The city has hired a contractor to install back-flow flaps and pumps to prevent the flooding, city public works director Bill Franz said. The contractor arrived on site Monday and started digging Tuesday. The work is expected to wrap up next week.

The project is a temporary fix because the city already made plans to build a $5.6 million lift station in the area that should stop the flooding in 2015. The design phase of that project is almost done, Franz said.

Most of the terms of the agreement with Casa Del Rey were worked out by the City Council in late 2013. Council members previously cited concerns that the city could get into trouble for shouldering all of the construction costs because the project is on private land.

The repeated flooding of the condo complex began in 2012, after a neighboring property owner installed equipment to divert the overflow from his land. The flooding also affects nearby Scriber Creek.

Heavy storms overwhelm the city’s sewer system with rainwater, sending waste up through the pipes and into people’s bathtubs, sinks and shower drains. During flooding, people who live at Casa Del Rey can’t use their kitchens or bathrooms or do laundry. The problems continue for days.

In a Dec. 20 letter to the city, an attorney for the condo owners wrote that the decision to sign the agreement was made “under duress and they do so because the potential for irreversible damage to their property and persons cannot otherwise be alleviated.”

The letter and the agreement were obtained by The Herald under state public records laws.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com.

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