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Second Kenmore water main break in a week leaves neighborhood flooded, again | Update

Work crews repair 81st Place N.E. in Kenmore from two water main breaks within one week on the street. The road was wavy in many places and had to be replaced. - Matt Phelps, Kenmore Reporter
Work crews repair 81st Place N.E. in Kenmore from two water main breaks within one week on the street. The road was wavy in many places and had to be replaced.
— image credit: Matt Phelps, Kenmore Reporter

Some of the asphalt covering 81st Place Northeast looks more like waves on the surface of Puget Sound. The street and surrounding neighbors endured the second water main break in a week on Thursday afternoon.

"It literally raised the road," said Terri Davis, whose backyard and crawl space were flooded. "My reaction was 'holy crap' at the amount of water and debris. It looked like there were about 18 inches of water under the road."

Davis said the road looked like it was floating on the water. Much of the water flowed downhill and into some neighbor's homes and storm drains. It even broke one homeowner's driveway.

"Last week we had four inches of water in our garage and this week we have five inches," said Alex Ngyun. "We had just finished the cleanup from the first time."

The Northshore Utility District received numerous calls at about 3:50 p.m. about the water main break on Thursday. A 12-inch diameter water main, located on 81st Place Northeast near 161st Place Northeast, failed, according to the utility.

"The district responded immediately, isolating the broken water main within minutes of being notified," the utility said in a release. "The district currently has all available crews actively working on making the repair."

The release stated that approximately 109 residents were affected by the incident. The water damaged several areas, including sidewalks, the Ngyun's garage and also caused roadway failures, numerous landscape and private storm issues.

Northshore Utility District General Manager Fanny Yee said that preliminary estimates for repairing the road are $500,000.

"It could be higher or lower," said Yee. "We have to cut open the asphalt in every place we can see."

The cost to homeowners is unknown.

A message on the utility's website states: "We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this has caused. Our crew is working with the city of Kenmore and Northshore Fire District. Please be assured that we are doing everything we can to restore water service to the affected customers as quickly as possible."

The first water main break took place on Aug. 29, about 50 to 100 feet to the north of Thursday's break.

"We have neighbors who have been gone for a week," said Ngyun. "They were here for the first break but not yesterday. They will be home tomorrow."

Ngyun said that she cried yesterday when her carpool driver called her yesterday.

"She said 'Have you looked outside? There is a river and I can't get to your house,'" said Ngyun. "I thought it was Groundhogs' Day."

She said that the force of the water and debris was so hard that it broke the asphalt in her driveway.

Ngyun said that the Northshore Utility District officials have been very professional and the homeowners are working with the insurance adjuster.

"We just don't know what is in the water and we have to throw out a lot of stuff," said Ngyun. "We might have to replace our washer and dryer, too. I just feel so helpless. Unless we block off our driveway, how do we protect our house?"

Neighbors have concerns about pressure on the system and the possibility of another break in the area.

Yee said the first break may have been caused because of a void under the pipe.

"You need to have support, a good gravel bedding," said Yee. "But we think there was some rotten vegetation or something under it."

Workers found a broken culvert across the second pipe and engineers have not made a final determination on the cause for either incident. The pipe was installed by the company that developed the area in the late 1970s and the utility is searching records to determine if there were mistakes made with the installation, Yee said.

"[The breaks in the pipes] don't look the same," said Yee. "They are the same class of pipe and the same material."

Yee said that main breaks of this size "almost never happen."

"Most main breaks are very small," said Yee. "And to have one this size almost never happens. It is very, very rare."

Ngyun said there was a main break in the area last year but it was because private workers hit a main during construction.

Yee said that the Northshore Utility District does not expect to have any more sink holes.

"There were some sink holes the first day (Aug. 29) but they have all been filled in," said Yee.

Yee said that in all, four homes had water damage inside the residence. The most extensive damage was to Ngyun's home.

For the second time in a week Ngyun had a cleaning crew out early Friday morning to clean the garage.

"The homeowners are working with our insurance and the adjuster is on site," said Yee. "We are helping [residents] clean up their yards."

Yee said that road repairs will continue through next week but replacing the pipe could take weeks.

All the neighbors the Reporter talked with said that the Northshore Utility District was prompt in their response to the two events.

"The Northshore Utility District called us and asked if we had any damage," said Davis. "We had some water in our crawl space and some of the neighbor's yard was in our backyard but that is about it. They had the water back on within a couple of hours."

Davis said she talked to one worker who said he was pulled out of his orientation to help with the cleanup.

About seven homes are located in a cul de sac on the hill above Ngyun's home, right by the construction, and have no access other than the damaged road. One visitor at a home, who declined to give his name, was angry there were no flaggers with the work crews on Friday morning. Yee said she was looking into that issue.

"It is really noisy," said Christine Stapp, who lives on the hill but did not have any water in her home. "The second [water main break] just happened and so far it is not that inconvenient."

Crews blocked off many areas of the road.

"I am worried about when things settle and there being sink holes," said Davis. "And what is the quality of our water going to be like? Fixing the pipes can create a lot of pressure on the system. We have a lot of concerns about more breaks in the area."

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