Everett looks for answers after sewers overwhelmed

EVERETT — Not long after the squall Wednesday, the calls started coming.

By Thursday afternoon, more than 50 people phoned the city to report raw sewage burbling through bathroom drains and storm water spilling into basements.

In the space of about 19 minutes, nearly an inch of rain fell during the freak storm.

In other parts of the country, that’s no big deal, said Mike McFarland, a National Weather Service forecaster.

“I don’t think they would take much note of one inch in Kansas,” he said.

But we’re not in Kansas.

In north Everett, where storm water and sewage share the same pipes, the system just couldn’t handle it.

“There was just too much water,” said public works director Dave Davis.

Now the city is facing claims from homeowners that could add up to thousands of dollars. Officials are wondering how — and if — they can prevent it from happening again.

The city is assembling a team of inspectors who planned to go door-to-door to give free advice to homeowners in affected areas. People also can call the city at 425-257-8881 for advice or to report damage.

Late Wednesday afternoon, the Sievers-Bailey family noticed water bubbling up from the shower drain of their home on Wetmore Avenue.

Within minutes, water also poured into their basement through the walls, said Jocelyn Sievers-Bailey.

Now they’ll have to replace the carpet.

Her neighbors, the Deckers family, spent most of the night sucking the water out of their basement with a shop vacuum.

Paulette Deckers said her husband heard a bubbling sound when he went down to the basement to run on their treadmill. He found water cascading onto their newly installed wood laminate floors.

“We’ve had rainstorms before and we’ve never had this problem,” she said.

City crews worked late into the night Wednesday to unstop sewers.

“We recognize there is a problem,” Davis said. “We have empathy for people who have basements full of raw sewage. It’s just a horrible event.”

It’s happened before.

In 2008, another squall flooded basements in some north Everett neighborhoods. In the hardest-hit blocks, the city offered homeowners a deal.

They could pay $100 for a contractor to install back flow valves on sewer lines that are supposed to prevent rising waters from flowing into the house. Typically, the valves are the responsibility of homeowners. The city picked up the majority of the cost, up to $2,500 per home.

This time around, some of the people with the valves still reported flooding, although it’s not clear if the water came from backed-up sewer drains or leaked in from elsewhere.

The city has replaced some of the aging sewer lines in the area and plans to replace more sections with larger pipes along Lombard, Oakes and Rockefeller. That should help — some.

It won’t fix the problem of a combined system with no place for excess storm water to run, Davis said.

In the south part of town, the storm water is collected in a separate system from the sewer and funneled to a catch basin when it rains.

Some people suggested the expansion of nearby Providence Regional Medical Center Everett may be responsible for the flooding.

Davis said that’s not likely.

“Certainly, they have more toilets,” he said. “I don’t think they were all flushing in those 19 minutes.”

Debra Smith: 425-339-3197; dsmith@heraldnet.com.

Flooding help

If you’ve experienced storm-related flooding and live in Everett, call the city at 425-257-8881. The message line is checked frequently during business hours. File a claim with the City Clerk’s Office, 2930 Wetmore Ave.

A copy of the claim form is available online at the city website at www.ci.everett.wa.us or www.heraldnet.com.

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