Sewage overflow angers Broadview residents

Broadview homeowners are angry about the raw sewage that overflowed into their basements in December and vented their frustrations to a city official last week.

During a heavy rainstorm on Dec. 3, the area’s sewage system backed up, causing extensive damage to homes.

Martha Burke, planning manager for Seattle Public Utilities said the neighborhood had been flooded twice in the past, in 1985 and 1997.

Burke said most of the sewer lines, installed in the late 1940s and early 1950s in Broadview are for sanitation only with separate storm lines.

“There should not be a lot of storm water going into the (sanitation) system,” said Burke.

The city provided a map with Carkeek Park Road to the west, Northwest 103rd Street to the south, Fremont to the east and 130th Avenue North as the borders of the problem area.

Some people at the meeting had flooding problems and lived outside these boundaries.

Resident Sid Andrews said sewage came into his home through the floor drain, shower and toilet causing $30,000 worth of damage.

Andrews runs the Fallen Brothers charity out of his home and collects food donations for the homeless and local food banks. Three refrigerators full of meat were damaged beyond repair and he threw out over $600 worth of meat and other food supplies.

Andrews pumped as much of the sewage out as possible that night. He went out to look in the manhole and found sewage rising eight inches from the top.

“One woman had four feet of raw sewage in her basement,” said Andrews.

A city crew sent to investigate told Andrews there were five breaks in the sewer line in his area.

Ted Lockhart and his wife used a pump to deal with the situation and then went out to buy another pump. He said he bought the last pump available in the whole city that evening.

Even with two pumps, the Lockhart’s resorted to bailing sewage with buckets.

“I kept it at hand to three inches. What saved us was when it stopped raining. We pumped all Sunday night and got no sleep,” said Lockhart.

“We are making a promise to look at it,” said Burke. “This is a community problem. We will do things to reduce the flow of sewage and water. This is a complex study, this is not going to be a simple fix.”

The city has a number of options and the solution may involve a combination of all these fixes.

On site solutions include homeowners disconnecting down spouts which drain into the ground and using natural systems like rain gardens.

Off site, the city can look into swales, natural drainage and improvements like adding ditches.

Reducing infiltration is another strategy on the table with repair of side sewers and replacing main lines from five inches up to eight or even 16 inches.

“I’m going to be getting to know your sewage system and get a better grasp of it and get a better feel for the pipe network,” said Andrew Behnke, a senior engineer for Herrera Environmental Consultants.

The engineering firm will gather data and build a model to see how storm water seeps into the ground.

Engineers will start conducting smoke tests on May 12. Liquid smoke will be pumped 600 to 800 feet at a time into the sewer system. The smoke will rise out of the ground or manhole covers if there is leaking, which can cause overflow.

Behnke stressed that an optimum solution will not be determined by the end of the year.

Numerous people at the meeting kept interrupting Burke’s presentation with horror stories of their sewage nightmares.

Others expressed concern about going through another winter storm season without any improvements to their sewer systems.

A few people said they called the city and were told it was not the city’s problem.

Claim forms were available at the meeting for residents to file for damages.

Dale Johnson, a member of the Broadview Community Council who did not suffer from a sewage backup, tried to keep the meeting moving in a positive direction.

“We are talking about the future and how to prevent the problem. We’re trying to get beyond the individual pain and how to solve the problem an move forward,” said Johnson.

Burke said another public meeting would be held later this year to report back to the community. That meeting would likely be in October.

Dean Wong may be reached at deanw@robinsonnews.com

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