Stopping pipes that runneth over

Sewer repairs promise help for flooding basements

By KATE REARDON

Herald Writer

EVERETT — Just think of replacing the city’s sewer lines as a trip to the dentist for a root canal. It will be painful, but comforting when it’s all over.

Construction crews are digging up neighborhood roads and alleys for the next few weeks in north Everett to replace lines, some of which have been there for 100 years or more.

For some residents, the work will mean limited or no access to garages or yards for a few days. Residents should still be able to use their sinks and toilets, however, during the work.

The new lines will be able to handle the water flows better during heavy rains.

"People don’t have a lot of tolerance for street and basement flooding, and they shouldn’t," said Clair Olivers, director of the city’s public works department. "We’re determined to eliminate those problems, but it isn’t going to happen overnight."

Some of the old pipes aren’t large enough and don’t handle today’s flows, which can contribute to flooding in the streets and basements when gully washers hit.

And some lines need to be replaced since sewer acid has eaten away at the old concrete pipes, Olivers said.

Most of the new pipes will be made out of plastic.

"The biggest benefit is getting rid of flooding problems," he said. "The other benefit is avoiding having such problems where they don’t currently exist."

The work is part of an ongoing effort to replace sewer lines, Olivers said. For the past 20 years, the city has spent an average of $1 million a year on this type of work.

Even so, it seemed like crews couldn’t replace some of the lines fast enough.

"We said, ‘It looks like we’re falling behind and spending more time on spot repairs,’ " Olivers said. "We essentially got council support for almost tripling the effort for sewer main replacement."

Now, the city will spend between $2.7 million and $3 million a year on replacement for the next 10 years, Olivers said, adding that public works has the money to do it.

Depending on location, any stretch of the city’s 300 miles of underground sewer pipes could be made out of concrete, clay, iron, concrete and steel, or plastic.

The city started looking at replacing sewer lines in 1979. There was a flurry of activity in the early 1980s because of a bond issue intended to fix up the water and sewer systems to add additional capacity, Olivers said.

Much of that work included building sewer pump stations for sewers in the city’s south end and replacing deteriorating sewers in the city’s north end.

Olivers said lines had gotten so bad in some places that alleys caved in when garbage trucks drove through.

Some of the pipes have been under city streets since horse and buggy days.

From about 41st Street N., water from sewers and streets drains into the city’s system.

For about the next month and again in the spring, construction workers will replace lines in places from Grand to Colby avenues and from 14th Street to Alverson Boulevard.

Other work includes:

  • Alleys from 17th to 21st streets near Lombard and Oakes avenues.

  • The alley at Hoyt and Rucker avenues between 24th and 25th streets.

  • A portion in northeast Everett including Fulton Street from 21st to 24th streets.

  • Alleys in the 2100 block from Fulton Street E. to Walnut street.

    For more information, call Everett public works at 425-257-8800.

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