City reviewing 150 flood claims, denied 15
EVERETT - The city is still sifting through almost 200 claims from the Aug. 29 and Sept. 5 rainstorms that left many basements flooded with backed-up sewage.
The city also is working on a rate study due this spring that could prompt the City Council to restructure utility rates. The study will look at how long and how much money it will take to separate storm water and sewer pipes throughout north Everett to prevent future flooding.
People experienced toilets backing up into their homes because of overfilled sewer pipes, and sewage water spilled up from storm drains, contributing to urban flooding that sent sewage water to low spots like basements.
So far, 180 damage claims have been filed as of early last week. The city has accepted 150 of the claims, denied 15 claims and a further 15 claims are under review, city spokeswoman Meghan Pembroke said.
The city estimates there are $3 million in claims from the overflows, Pembroke said. The money would come out of the city’s utility rate fund, which is purely funded by revenues from rates.
So far the city has settled 38 claims and paid out $600,000. The figure includes money advanced for repairs on unsettled claims.
The rate fund traditionally pays for infrastructure improvements, and right now the account has $18 million in it.
Pembroke said the city denied a few claims for a range of reasons.
Some of the claims were shot down because the water wasn’t from the sewer system. In other cases, the homeowner didn’t follow recommendations to install a backwater valve or the city couldn’t get access to the house to install the valve. The valve is meant to prevent pipes from flowing backward. The city paid for the valves.
The city is doing due diligence in each case, Pembroke said.
“By and large, people have been satisfied with how it’s gone,” she said, adding that most affected homeowners appreciated how the city responded to alleviate damaged properties at its cost.
The city started installing almost 50 backwater valves last week after the latest rainstorms.
Before this latest work order, the city had installed 99 backwater valves across the city. Many were installed after a freak 2010 rainstorm flooded homes in the vicinity of Providence’s hospital tower on Colby.
The city paid $940,000 to cover more than 75 claims from that 2010 incident.
The city’s next task is identifying how it can separate the pipes to prevent future flooding. Mayor Ray Stephanson has firmly said the separation work must be done.
The combined storm water and sewer pipes were built 125 years ago. The city estimates replacing all of the pipes could cost $600 million and decades to complete.
Everett is one of the largest cities in the state that experiences problems associated with these older sewer systems.
The city hired FCS Group to update its rate structure. The study is due in March.
One separation project, called the Sewer “M” project in north Everett, will break ground next year.
The project boundaries run 30 blocks roughly from Grand Avenue to Colby Avenue and 10th Street to 17th Street.
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