West Seattle, Washington
The city’s Utility Discount Program is expanding, adding help for more seniors, as announced by Mayor Ed Murray in a media briefing today at the Senior Center of West Seattle, with Councilmember Lisa Herbold and Seattle Public Utilities general manager Mami Hara.
This has to do with seniors receiving Social Security and being on Medicare – 3,000 are not getting “the help they need or the help they deserve,” because some benefits are being counted as income even though they’re not, so the city is changing eligibility rules to make sure they can get it. This can save more than $1,000 a year per household, “making their lives a little bit more affordable.”
The city already had a push under way to make sure more people eligible for the program took advantage of it, and participation has more than doubled in the past three years.
Herbold – who chairs the committee that oversees SPU – said she first heard about this eligibility problem last fall, and is glad it’s been fixed. “Another change we made was for folks to qualify for time payments when they have past-due bills” – more people can get some time to do that. She says it’s a matter of “connecting problems that constituents face on a day-to-day basis with the policy work we do in the office.”
Hara said that SPU bills can be discounted 50 percent under the discount program, and for City Light bills, it’s 60 percent. The utilities are working to be “responsive,” she said. And those who sign up for this program only need to renew their registration every three years. Signing up also gets you free passes for transfer-station use, worth up to $145 a year, and free backyard collection of trash and compost for those who can’t get theirs to the curb because of mobility issues.
You can find out more about the Utility Discount Program by going here. Councilmember Herbold also said that the city will be retroactively reviewing those who have been turned down for the program to see if they’re now eligible.
SIDE NOTE: And if you’re a senior with other resource problems/questions – or have someone in your family who is – West Seattleite Irene Stewart from the Age-Friendly Seattle program tells us you can call the free Community Living Connections hotline, 844-348-5464.
The two buildings at Arrowhead Gardens that were without water after Monday’s pipe break will get it back this afternoon, if it’s not back already, according to a spokesperson for AG’s parent nonprofit Senior Housing Assistance Group (SHAG). We followed up after commenters raised concerns in the discussion following our original story. SHAG’s Karen Lucas tells WSB that water was expected to be back around 3:30 pm. While it was off, she says, those affected were able to use facilities in the two buildings that weren’t affected, and water and meals were provided. Eight units were evacuated and the Red Cross was brought in to help; Lucas says those who didn’t have relatives/friends to stay with were put up in hotels. Lucas confirms that the broken pipe is on their property so it’s their responsibility to fix, not Seattle Public Utilities (which is what SPU told us, too), and she said they’re still not sure why the pipe broke, flooding the underground parking area after, she was told, breaking through concrete like “a geyser.” She also wanted to thank the Seattle Fire and Red Cross crews who responded, for doing a “fabulous” job.
11:28 AM: Thanks for the tips – we heard from two people in Highland Park/Riverview before this big power outage even appeared on the Seattle City Light map. More than 2,000 customers (homes/businesses) are out.
11:37 AM: As the map shows, the outage also stretches into parts of White Center and South Park. The SCL map now has a restoration-time “guesstimate” of 2:31 pm – but keep in mind, could be sooner, could be later. We haven’t yet heard what caused it – if you’re seeing SCL trucks, please let us know, since that’s usually a clue. // And remember that dark traffic signals = all-way stops. Someone just messaged us to say there’s already been a crash at 8th/Roxbury.
12:07 PM: West Marginal/Highland Park Way is another major intersection with the lights out, and people “driving recklessly” as a dispatcher relayed a little while ago (monitored via scanner). SCL says a crash is what caused this and they’re still hopeful of having the power back on by 2:30ish.
12:38 PM: Added two photos from 8th/Roxbury – above, SPD is helping with traffic there (there’s a crash and a stalled vehicle); below, SDOT working with the signal box (and a generator).
12:43 PM: At least part of the area has the power back, per comment and texts, after about an hour and a half.
12:54 PM: The SCL map has updated and says the outage is about two-thirds of its original size – now 1,300+ customers, mostly south/east of West Seattle.
1:08 PM: Now down to 560+ customers out.
1:35 PM: And now just a handful.
Until noon, you’re invited to come tour the new Murray combined-sewer-overflow-control “Wet Weather Facility” across from Lowman Beach Park – where a million-gallon storage tank is underground (where the people in the top photo are standing), ready in case a big storm sends too much stormwater and sewage to the Murray Pump Station (named for Murray Avenue SW) across the street. The King County Wastewater Treatment Division built the facility and we’re about to hear from its director Mark Isaacson as well as project manager Marla Coles, King County Council Chair Joe McDermott, and Deputy County Executive Fred Jarrett.
There are treats, informational stations, and tours, right where 48th SW meets Lincoln Park Way and Beach Drive.
ADDED 4:34 PM: Here’s our video of the speakers, who voiced pride in the project and thanks to the neighbors for putting up with years of construction:
Still a bit more to add later!
P.S. Those who took tours today got a look inside the building – if you missed that, here’s the story of our tour last Monday.
Stepping away from the scanner for a few minutes to run an errand late last night, we missed the news that many people had called in about a loud boom and flash, audible/visible from northeast West Seattle. The Seattle City Light map didn’t show any outages. But this morning via Twitter, SCL says it was indeed a power-line situation – across the Duwamish River – “a bird got into the wrong place” at East Marginal and Oregon. A one-customer outage resulted – not shown on the map, but SCL reminds us that a few areas of their service territory remain off-map – and was repaired within three hours.
8:44 PM: Thanks for the texted tip – 53 homes are without power in Gatewood, the Seattle City Light map confirms. No word yet what caused the outage; the estimated restoration time is after 2 am, but remember that those times are “guesstimates” at best – could be sooner, or later. (Let us know if you see a repair truck – text or call 206-293-6302, our 24/7 hotline – thanks!)
10:30 PM: The map is now updated to attribute the outage to “bird/animal” – which is in line with the first comment below. No change in the restoration guesstimate, though.
5:39 AM: Power was restored early this morning – see comments.
(WSB photo, January 2015)
Two and a half years ago, that was the view into the then-under-construction million-gallon combined-sewer-overflow-control tank at what’s now called the Murray “wet weather facility” across from Lowman Beach (named for Murray Avenue SW).
Today, that’s the view from atop the site – which we just toured with a delegation from the King County Wastewater Treatment Division, which runs the facility, where you’re invited to a community celebration next Saturday (June 10th, 10 am-noon). The $47 million facility has been operational since last November – when it handled an overflow situation; now the exterior’s complete, too, and it’s party time. This has been eight years in the making, dating back to community meetings in 2009 to talk about options for reducing combined-sewer (the system that takes both stormwater and sewage) overflows into Puget Sound in two areas of central/south West Seattle, part of a wide-ranging court order. The Murray project – which replaced a block of residential buildings – ultimately was designed to include viewpoint, seating space, and art atop and alongside its support building. What looks like lawn, for example, is actually part of a green roof.
You might already have seen the exterior – people were there on this sunny morning doing yoga and walking the stairs. The tank itself is off-limits but we got a look at what’s inside the support building:
12:18 PM: Seattle Public Utilities tells WSB that a six-inch water main has broken on Prescott Avenue SW in northeast Admiral [map], and repairs will require shutting the water off for at least four hours. SPU’s Cornell Amaya says about 45 services (households, etc.) will be affected, on Prescott SW and Prescott Place. If you’re in that area, you might already be experiencing lower pressure and/or discolored water. He adds that the water mains in that area are “pretty old, and sometimes they just break.”
1:43 PM: Update from SPU – the crews worked so fast, the water’s already back on.
A couple times this week, we’ve heard from West Seattleites with discolored (“brown”) tap water. First Gatewood, today Arbor Heights (thanks for the report, and for the photo above). The potential causes are numerous; no water breaks in either case so far as we have heard, so we thought we would remind you of what to do if it happens to you – First thing, call Seattle Public Utilities at 206-386-1800. Usually it’ll turn out to be something simple like firefighters testing hydrants in your area. Here’s what you’ll usually be asked to do – but don’t wait to report it, even if you do suspect it’s something routine – SPU has told us over and over again that they want to know.
9:58 PM: Thanks for the tips/questions. We’re receiving reports that power briefly flickered around north West Seattle – The Junction, Genesee Hill, Admiral. So far no word of the cause, and no WS outage has shown up on the Seattle City Light map. (If you have completely lost power, please alert City Light, 206-684-3000 – and then let us know at 206-293-6302 – thanks!)
10:32 PM: We’ve also heard from Gatewood, High Point, and Alki – where one person says it’s been attributed to balloons getting tangled in a power line, and several report a loud noise preceding the flicker. We’re not likely to hear anything official tonight but will check with SCL in the morning.
6:33 PM: That’s the Seattle City Light map showing the extent of a power outage that started shortly after 6 pm in Brace Point and part of The Arroyos. SCL says 327 customers – homes/businesses – are affected, but no word yet on the outage’s cause. The estimated restoration time is ~9:28 pm but remember that’s just a guess – could be sooner, could be later. (Thanks for the tips, and let us know when the power’s back – 206-293-6302 text or voice – thanks!)
7:18 PM: About half those who originally lost power have it back – 159 are still out, per the map, which now attributes the outage to “equipment failure.”
12:11 AM: The map still shows those customers out after 6 hours, with the restoration estimate now moved back past 2 am. We’ll be asking City Light later today for more information on what failed.
5:30 AM: Around 3 am, the outage area on the SCL map reverted to the original 327 customers. There’s now a restoration estimate of ~8:26 am.
9:23 AM: Just talked to Tyson Lin of SCL. He says the problem is in an underground vault and it’s taking a long time because crews first had to be able to get into the vaults safely – which involved, among other things, pumping out water with vacuum trucks – and then had to test each cable individually to figure out where the problem is. They’re still in the testing phase, Lin says, which they hope to finish by 11 am, and then restoration and repair, assuming they are able to find the specific problem, could take until 3 pm. We also asked why the additional customers lost power again at 3 am; that was because a particular cable had to be deactivated so they could safely reach others for testing.
11:21 AM: Just checked the SCL map for the first time in about an hour and a half and it shows the outage has ended – if your power isn’t back, be sure to call 206-684-3000 to make sure they know.
Two more updates related to the Spokane Street cleanup, now that we’ve arrived at the end of the week. We had asked city spokesperson Julie Moore for some stats and “what’s next,” and here’s that information:
Over the two-day cleanup all along Spokane Street (trash pickup and encampment removal from near the bike trail), the City removed approximately 108 tons of trash and debris. As I described in my earlier email, the area along the bike trail where tents were removed on Wednesday will be an emphasis area and once posted, the City will remove new tents that may try to locate there.
While we are considering options for moving the RVs from that location, we do not have an immediate timeline for doing so. In general, the City is focusing efforts on working with individuals in tent encampments, especially the ones with the greatest public health and safety concerns for the individuals and the surrounding community. The Navigation Team is connecting with those individuals to find solutions that fit their needs and will help move them into safer living situations. Other City crews are addressing the trash related to encampments and illegal dumping in general around the city.
In the meantime, some of the individuals living in the RVs have been collecting trash in bags and setting it out for pickup. The City is amenable to working with them to continue the effort to manage their own trash as we work on a longer-term plan for moving people to alternative shelter or housing situations.
Our crews have repaired nine of the lights under the West Seattle Bridge. Six remain out. Repairing those requires creating clearance around ground vaults where RVs are currently parked. We’re working with Finance and Administrative Services on a plan for when and how that can be done. That work can be accomplished without moving all the RVs.
We’ve also been asking him about the lights that are out on the high bridge, since some commenters wondered about those – Thomsen’s update on that: “We continue to work with SDOT to restore the lights on top of the bridge; that work could be done in about a week.”
As reported here this morning, the promised cleanup is under way along Spokane Street, east of the low bridge, including the area where a bicyclist was attacked last week while riding home from West Seattle. She and others, including West Seattle Bike Connections, pointed out that lights were out on that stretch of the trail and had been out – and reported as out – for months; Seattle City Light said the cleanup, and the sweep of tents encroaching on the path, would facilitate repairs. Today we checked back with SCL spokesperson Scott Thomsen, who told us the lights should be working by week’s end:
We have had workers out there this week, making repairs to lights and wiring where they could work safely. We continue to coordinate our work with the City, which is cleaning up the site to allow our workers better access to the equipment they need to fix. We expect to complete repairs and have the lights back on before dark Friday night.
Meantime, the cleanup operation will continue tomorrow; we went back through the area about an hour ago and there’s clearly still work to do, with bags of trash remaining along the south side of westbound Spokane, just east of where a backhoe was clearing a large dumpsite under the elevated roadway during our visit this morning.
Thanks to Lisa at CAPERS in The Junction for the heads-up after getting a scam call:
I just had someone call saying they were from Seattle City Light and that if I didn’t pay my bill in 20 minutes they would shut off my service. They also asked for a credit card to satisfy the bill.
She didn’t fall for it because she knew that’s NOT how City Light works – this is a phone scam that’s been going on for years, but it’s worth another reminder, since they’re obviously still getting some victims, or else they wouldn’t keep trying. Here’s the City Light webpage dedicated to stopping the scammers – with this advice:
If you suspect a scam attack or have questions regarding your bill, call our Customer Care Center at 206.684.3000 as well as the Seattle Police Department at 206.625.5011.
Seattle City Light has just gone public with its next round of locations for utility-pole replacements, in Gatewood, Upper Fauntleroy, Highland Park, and Burien. Embedded above (and also available on the SCL website) are five 2-page flyers for different areas, each one with its own map(s) – note that what you see above is the first of FOUR map pages, one every other page, so be sure to scroll through or check the SCL website directly; below, the announcement from SCL:
Starting in mid-to-late March 2017, Seattle City Light’s contractor, Magnum Power LLC, will be replacing aging utility poles in parts of its service territory. This project will enhance electrical reliability by replacing older poles in the system. The installation of new poles, wire and equipment relocation is an important investment in infrastructure.
Crews will be working in the following areas:
· SW Elmgrove St to SW Sullivan St (east of California Ave SW)
· SW Holden St to SW Southern St (west of 35th Ave SW)
· SW Thistle Street to SW Henderson St (west of 35th Ave SW)
· SW Kenyon St to SW Trenton St (east of Delridge Way SW)
· SW 122nd St to SW 126th St (west of 1st Ave S)
Highlights from the project:
· The entire project is anticipated for completion by the end of 2017. Daily work hours are from Monday through Thursday, 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Crews may be working in other areas before transitioning to these construction areas.
· The new poles will be placed alongside pre-existing poles. They will meet standard heights and widths required for overhead power line construction. This may mean that poles in your area will be slightly taller and approximately two inches wider than existing poles.
· Once the electrical equipment is relocated, it may take several months before the other companies with utilities on the existing poles make their transfer(s). We will continue to monitor/coordinate these efforts as needed to facilitate the removal of old poles.
For more information, customers can contact:
· Percy Schlimm, Sr. Electrical Service Representative at firstname.lastname@example.org or (206) 386-1735.
· Kevin Knutz, Magnum Power Project Manager at email@example.com or (360) 904-8318.
SCL says that if you’re affected, you’ll be getting all this information directly, too. (This round includes our area of Upper Fauntleroy, we notice, so we’ll be watching to see when the direct customer communication arrives.)
ADDED NOON WEDNESDAY: For the record, our notice arrived via postal mail this morning.
4:49 AM: Also parts of Puget Ridge, Riverview, South Park, White Center – we’ve added a screengrab from the outage map. No word yet on the cause. The SCL map has a restoration-time estimate of 11 am but as we always remind you during power outages, that is just a guess, could be much earlier, could be much later. And please remember if you are driving before the power’s back on – any signalized intersection where the signal’s out or flashing means it’s an all-ways stop.
5:34 AM: Getting texts (thank you!) saying power’s back on. Waiting to see via the map if it’s back for everyone.
5:38 AM: Map has updated. Down to 500+ customers, in White Center (mostly Greenbridge vicinity):
6:07 AM: And it’s halved to 240 customers, north Greenbridge. “Equipment failure” is now listed as the cause.
8:44 AM: SCL says the equipment that failed is a switch, and it’s being replaced. They hope to have everybody back up and running by 1 pm.
Another followup on the 24th SW/SW Kenyon sinkhole that got a Waste Management truck stuck for a while back on Monday afternoon: More about the cause, and the repairs, from Seattle Public Utilities spokesperson Rachel Ramey:
SPU located a damaged 15-inch drainage pipe under the street that was clogged with debris and tree roots. Crew members cleaned the downstream pipe to remove debris. Repair crews will be onsite Sunday 7:30 am to 8 pm and Monday 7:30-5 pm for repairs. SPU expects to complete pipe repairs and a temporary patch on the roadway by mid-week, next week. SDOT permanent street repair will follow.
We had already reported Tuesday that a stormwater pipe was to blame, but this adds information about the size and scope of that problem.
Seattle Public Utilities was back today at the 24th SW/SW Kenyon intersection where a Waste Management truck got stuck (as first reported here Monday afternoon, thanks to a reader tip, and updated until the truck was taken away three-plus hours later).
SPU spokesperson Marieke Rake tells WSB that they found a damaged stormwater pipe beneath the street, and that’s what they believe caused the sinkhole (their term, “void”). She added that an SPU maintenance team is cleaning the downstream pipe to remove debris,” and within a few days they’ll “have an estimated pipe-repair timeframe.”
10:36 AM: Thanks to the texter who mentioned an explosion-type noise near 36th and Andover – SFD went to look for a possible transformer fire in the area. We don’t know if they’ve found anything yet but we do know the Seattle City Light map now shows an 81-customer (one home/business = customer) outage in the area.
10:52 AM: The SFD call has closed out. SCL does have the cause classified as “equipment failure,” and its restoration guesstimate is 2 pm – could be sooner, could be later.
11:52 AM: The restoration estimate has now been pushed back to 2:48 pm. The photos above and below are courtesy of an area resident (thank you!) who says SCL has been focusing on the cross-arm where a “high voltage insulator broke away.”
2:34 PM: The outage has expanded by 40 customers since our last look at the map in the past hour or so. Guesstimate for restoration is now pushed back to 6-ish pm.
2:45 PM: We’ve also heard via the scanner that the traffic lights are now out at 35th/Fauntleroy, 35th/Avalon, Fauntleroy/Avalon. Remember – a broken signal = all-way stop!
3:55 PM: Thanks for the updates in the comment section – looks like the power’s back on for all but seven customers (screengrab above).
ORIGINAL REPORT, 9:54 PM SUNDAY: Thanks to David for the report and photo – brown (discolored) water from his taps in the 3000 block of 62nd SW in Alki: “I called the City and they say it’s safe — supposedly testing hydrants in the neighborhood is causing rust in the water.” If you have brown water – tonight or any other time – be sure to report it to Seattle Public Utilities at this number – 206-386-1800. Sometimes it’s testing; sometimes it can be a sign of a water break or other problem, and that number will get you to someone around the clock. Last year, you’ll recall, SPU was flushing areas of the water system in West Seattle in hopes of clearing out some buildup; we haven’t had an update on that in a few months, so we’ll check on its status after the holiday.
TUESDAY FOLLOWUP: From SPU spokesperson Ingrid Goodwin: “SPU crews were conducting fire flow tests Sunday night, which caused some customers to experience temporary discolored water. These tests require crews to run water from a hydrant to test the volume coming out of the pipe to ensure there is adequate fire flow protection. Most of these tests are conducted at night to minimize the impact to customers. SPU received 5 calls from customers about discolored water (3 Sunday night and 2 Monday morning). Our on-duty water quality inspector spoke directly to those customers who had questions or concerns about the discolored water.”
We also asked if any further flushing operations were happening; Goodwin said no: “At this time, SPU is not conducting water main flushing in West Seattle. However, we continue to monitor water quality issues in West Seattle to determine if, when and where flushing might be beneficial.”
That sign was up this afternoon near the 63rd Avenue Pump Station south of Alki Point, following the 330,000-gallon combined-sewer overflow reported late last night by King County Wastewater Treatment. The overflow happened during Thursday afternoon’s less-than-one-hour power outage in western West Seattle, before a portable generator could be brought to and fired up at the pump station.
We followed up today with county spokesperson Doug Williams. For one, as commenter Schwaggy asked, why isn’t there already a generator at the pump station? He says there soon will be:
We are wrapping up a construction project at the 63rd Avenue Pump Station that, when finished, will include a new emergency power generator at the facility. While that construction project is underway, we have an emergency generator loaded on a trailer and stationed at the Alki CSO facility. Yesterday when our workers got the 63rd Ave pump station overflow alarm they went to the Alki facility and picked up the emergency generator for the short drive over to the pump station (about ¼ mile, I believe). However, power was restored before the emergency power was brought online.
As for how long the signs will stay up, Williams didn’t have information on water-quality-test results yet when we checked in, but he said the signs will not be taken down until results are “below thresholds for human contact.”
Just got word from the King County Wastewater Treatment District that this afternoon’s power outage caused a ~330,000-gallon overflow from the 63rd Avenue Pump Station in South Alki. The pump station usually sends stormwater and wastewater flows to the Alki Combined Sewer Overflow facility at Alki Point. That facility has an emergency generator on site, and the county says crews brought that generator to the pump station, but it wasn’t needed for long, since the outage lasted less than an hour.
… King County has reported the overflow to health and regulatory agencies. King County employees will post signs in the vicinity of the pump station at first light on Friday, Feb. 17, and employees with the County’s Environmental Lab conducted water quality monitoring.
The Alki facility itself had a quarter-million-gallon overflow just four weeks ago.
4:30 PM: Via Twitter, SCL says they “have reports of a downed pole,” though we haven’t heard where. Evan, via Twitter, reports having seen transformer trouble and sparks near High Point Pond Park. There was a short-lived SFD call near 29th/Findlay. Meantime, remember that non-working signals are all-way stops.
4:57 PM: New estimated restoration time – 5:50 pm. (Could be sooner, could be later.)
5:12 PM: Thanks for all the updates! Took the City Light map a few minutes to catch up but it confirms, outage is over.