By MICHAEL WHITNEY
Published Sept. 18, 2013
City paying claims for sewage damaged homes
EVERETT - The city is paying homeowners for flood damage caused by heavy rains on Aug. 29 and Sept. 5 that sent backed up sewer water into people’s basements.
At least 62 north Everett residents have filed claims so far, city officials said.
The city is urging people with flood damage to file a claim as soon as possible even if the value of the damage has yet to be determined, city officials said.
To fill out a flood claim, contact the City Clerk’s office at 425-257-8610 or stop by City Hall at 2930 Wetmore Ave. during business hours. The city has a flood form online at www.ci.everett.wa.us/Get_PDF.aspx?pdfID=6023.
Under the settlement process, the city will require the installation of water-blocking backwater valves at the city’s expense in most cases.
The city is hiring a plumbing consultant to make sure the backwater valves are properly installed.
Additionally, the city will be evaluating all properties within the 30-block radius of the city’s latest sewer pipe project, called Sewer M, to determine if a backwater valve would be appropriate. The project boundaries run roughly from Grand Avenue to Colby Avenue and 10th Street to 17th Street.
Mayor Ray Stephanson made the announcement at last week’s City Council meeting.
The City Council is expected to adopt a formal resolution on claim settlements at this week’s meeting.
Since 2008, the city has installed 99 backwater valves, public works director Dave Davis said. Many were installed after a freak 2010 rainstorm flooded homes in the vicinity of Providence’s hospital tower on Colby.
The 2010 incident cost the city $940,254 to cover more than 75 flood claims.
People who don’t have a claim to file this time around can get on a city list to receive a free backwater valve, Davis said.
The valves seemed to have done their job in this year’s flood, Davis said last week. Only five of the flood claims came from homes with valves.
The city’s combined sewage and storm water pipe system across north Everett can’t handle heavy rain, adding to urban flooding that sends sewage water to low spots such as in basements.
The system discharges diluted sewage water into Puget Sound as fast as it can to prevent backups. Everett is one of about 11 cities in the state with the old combined system, a state Department of Ecology spokesman said previously.
After the 2010 flood, the city built separated storm water and sewer lines that seem to be working.
“I think we are all collectively committed to find solutions to deal with this matter once and for all,” Stephanson said.
Residents, meanwhile, are concerned about their property values.
Resident Steve Ditto said people were left surprised by the floods, and the city needs to warn about the health effects of sewage water.
“Watching sewage explode out of your basement is not a pleasant experience, but it’s much less than the health concerns,” Ditto said.
The city recommends people with flooded homes and businesses get them thoroughly cleaned and disinfected by a professional cleaning company. Property owners who choose to clean their homes on their own can find instructions on the state Department of Health website.
Both the Aug. 29 and Sept. 5 heavy rains caused more than 10 of Everett’s 13 combined sewer system discharge pipes to overflow.
Ecology generally allows cities to have one discharge a year from each combined overflow site, but sometimes allows for special circumstances such as during heavy rains.
The state agency is not at a point to make any determinations as to whether or not the multiple discharges will result in a state violation, but the city notified Ecology promptly on the discharges as required by law, Ecology spokesman Larry Altose said.
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