Sewage spill floods homes

May 01, 2013

At least four Mukilteo homes were flooded with raw sewage on April 24 after crews unclogged a nearby sewer main line.

Mukilteo Water and Wastewater District crews unplugged the pipe around 8:30 a.m. near 8th and 9th streets in the Sky-Hi-La neighborhood, which then caused backed-up sewage to spew and flood nearby homes.

Eight minutes later, the water district was notified that a home on the 1000 block of 8th Street was flooding – and fast. An estimated 1,000 gallons of sewage had spread to the yards and basements of at least three more homes by about noon.

“This is the worst sewage backup that we’ve ever had,” said Dan Hammer, general manager of the Mukilteo Water and Wastewater District. “It’s very regrettable.”

“It burst loose, came down stream and possibly plugged up another stream.”

A damage estimate to the homes was not available on Tuesday. The water district has offered to cover the cost of repairs.

Kathleen Newman, whose home is on the 800 block of 8th Street, was walking up the stairs from her basement around 11 a.m. when she heard rushing water and turned around to see sewage seeping across the floor.

Within five minutes, the entire basement had flooded. The sewage was 4 inches deep.

“It’s just a miserable experience to go through,” said Sam Newman, her husband. “It’s amazing, the work ahead of us with reconstruction.”

A private cleaning crew is pumping out the sewage and cleaning their home. They lost carpets, rugs and walls. Their furniture has to be cleaned and sanitized.

Katie Ross was working at home, on the 800 block of 9th Street, on Wednesday when she noticed a bad smell. She couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. It wasn’t the garbage.

Her husband, Dave, later went downstairs and yelled up to her that the water heater must have exploded. However, they soon realized that it wasn’t water.

“Black stinking sludge was everywhere,” Katie Ross said. “The smell was nauseating. You can't imagine the smell unless you've experienced it.”

The water district crew had been called Wednesday morning to a nearby home that had an issue with sewage backing up in a side sewer pipe. When the crew cleaned the main line, it released stored sewage into the rest of the system.

“When the sewer main gets surcharged, it has no place to go,” Hammer said. “If we had been able to lead it off slowly, it may not have been a problem the way it was.”

Not long after the crew freed up the pipe, they started to get calls from homeowners down stream about spilled sewage, he said.

He said the crew had no way of controlling how fast the backed up sewage would flow once they unplugged the pipe.

The last time a plugged pipe caused a flood was about six years ago, Hammer said.

He said a crew routinely cleans sewer main lines to avoid leaks or floods. They don’t know what clogged the pipe, he said.

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