Followup: Latest on the Myrtle (and Beacon) reservoir problems

When we broke the story on Monday night of hundreds of leaks requiring the waterproofing membranes to be dug up, removed and reinstalled at Myrtle Reservoir in West Seattle and Beacon Hill Reservoir, our story was cited and linked to by more than half a dozen citywide media sources, including (almost 4,000 people clicked from there to come see the story here). Now today, three days later, the Times has done its own followup, also appearing in the print edition – which (thank you!) again credits WSB for breaking the story – read the new Times story here. The reporter, Susan Kelleher, is the same one who just last weekend broke the story of SDOT do-overs (including ramps along Fauntleroy Way) – she also was unable, however, as were we, to pin anybody down on specifics of cost/blame re: the reservoir membranes – but SPU has promised some cost information next week, so we’ll bring that to you as soon as it’s available. Meantime, we had asked SPU’s Andy Ryan some other followup questions — read on for the answers:

It was clear, during the course of checking into the story, that more than a few months passed between the discovery of the leaks and the work that’s happening now, removing the membrane so a new one (which will involve a “hot asphalt” process) can be applied. Why the lag? Ryan answered: “Figuring out what was causing the drips inside the reservoir, the extent of the problem, discussions with the designer and contractor about what the fix should be and how it should be undertaken, was a very involved process. And our decision to have the waterproofing torn up–with all the problems that would involve–was not taken lightly. We followed a methodical, deliberate process, and it was time-consuming.”

We also asked how the membrane is being removed – is it a scraping process, a chemical process, or what – and will it require any removal of the concrete that forms the actual reservoir cover. Ryan says, “No redoing of the concrete. The product is proving a little difficult to remove, so we’re using high-pressure water, ‘hydro-blasting,’ on the tough spots.”

We also learned that the change in waterproofing could make a difference in what happens with the dirt/sod that will be replaced over the new “membrane” once it’s in. According to Ryan, the “thicker” process that will be used now “might make the installation of real grass (vs. synthetic grass) more

Again, we will continue to follow this story, particularly to find out how much the digging up and replacement of the membranes is costing – the city has stressed it believes that “ratepayers” will not ultimately have to foot the bill (the situation may wind up being worked out in court), and it also has stressed that there are no health risks because of the leaks in the reservoir covers resulting from the waterproofing problems.

11 Replies to "Followup: Latest on the Myrtle (and Beacon) reservoir problems"

  • old timer July 17, 2009 (1:34 pm)

    If the top part leaks, are they sure the sides and the bottom are not leaking also?

  • Dailycommuter July 17, 2009 (1:48 pm)

    According to the Times article “no one involved with the project can say why the waterproof membrane failed . . .” Without SPU’s knowing what went wrong the first time, how the heck can we have any confidence that a re-do will be any more effective? Let’s get it right, people, and basic to that is an understanding of what went wrong.

  • WSB July 17, 2009 (1:52 pm)

    Seawa – the membrane is on the top, not the sides/bottom. Daily – note the languaging. As was also the case in the work we did – no one can/will say but that doesn’t mean they don’t think they know – or at least all have their respective opinions/suspicions. Since the city has already said they expect this to land in court, everyone is clamming up (or, reserving their judgment) to some degree- TR

  • Cindi B July 17, 2009 (4:28 pm)

    We were going to get synthetic grass in the Myrtle Park???? Does the Parks manager know that? Or have I lost memory cells?

  • WSB July 17, 2009 (4:32 pm)

    I thought that looked a little odd but keep in mind it came from SPU, not Parks, in response to my question “does the change in membrane materials mean anything different for the way the sod will be put back down etc.” I should check with the project manager but may not get to do so till Monday … TR

  • MargL July 17, 2009 (4:54 pm)

    Yeah that bit about synthetic grass does seem a bit odd since the Times article makes the point that the reason for the -waterproofing- in the first place was because there was going to be grass, shrubs and whatnot planted on the lid and the construction manager says “… we don’t know what sort of fertilizer they use.” I assume “they” means the Parks Dept.

  • WSB July 17, 2009 (4:57 pm)

    FWIW the Times has not covered this project before. And other media sources’ interpretation was fascinating to watch – like the TV station whose reporter flatly declared the “covers” would be removed – which means taking off the concrete. No, they’re not planning on doing that, or so we’re told. – TR

  • bridge to somewhere July 17, 2009 (7:28 pm)

    btw: i heard WSB noted on KPLU today with reference to breaking the story.

  • WSB July 17, 2009 (7:51 pm)

    Thanks – somebody else mentioned that. In other public radio news, KUOW was going to have another one of its sorta-weekly “neighborhood news roundups” today (I was on last week and 2 weeks previous) and this is what they were going to ask me about, but after their morning editorial meeting they decided to spend the whole show talking about light rail and the moon anniversary instead. Maybe Monday, I’m told … TR

  • Jackie July 18, 2009 (12:07 am)

    I heard this story on KPQ Wenatchee radio tonight – one of only two Seattle items…. but no mention of WSB, though…

  • WSB July 18, 2009 (12:10 am)

    Well, it’s gone thru enough writes and rewrites that I’m not surprised a small radio station either didn’t get that part or didn’t think they needed to mention it. A political candidate here in Seattle called attention to the situation today and credited the Times as if they were the first to report on the story (sigh). To their credit, when I called that to their attention, they said they would fix it. Anyway, I am off to find an e-mail address for KPQ (probably some poor board op ripping and reading, I did my time in small-market radio news …) – TR

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