UPDATE: You might need to check to see if overnight West Seattle water-system problem affected you

11:02 AM: Seattle Public Utilities confirms a problem we learned about through a reader tip – an overnight water-pressure problem. Here’s their response to our inquiry:

A pressure-reducing valve in the drinking-water system malfunctioned late Monday night, causing a small number of Seattle Public Utilities customers in West Seattle to experience higher water pressure than normal.

SPU is asking customers along Alki Ave SW and Beach Dr SW between Admiral and Lincoln Park to check their water heaters for water overflow. If it looks like leakage has occurred, please call SPU at 206-386-1800.

Without hearing directly from residents, we don’t know for sure if these are related, but the log for Seattle Fire (which often provides emergency response to water-overflow problems) shows two early morning “water job” calls, in Alki and Fauntleroy.

ADDED 4:05 PM: It’s been pointed out that there are other calls logged for last night – here’s the SFD log, showing another “water job” plus three automatic Alki/Harbor Avenue fire-alarm calls (which can be triggered by water-pressure changes).

ADDED 5:53 PM: We asked SPU a followup question about damage compensation. The official reply:

Seattle Public Utilities is working with customers in West Seattle affected by the valve malfunction Monday evening on next steps like filing claims. Customers can find out information about filing a claim on the City’s website.

19 Replies to "UPDATE: You might need to check to see if overnight West Seattle water-system problem affected you"

  • Jim P. November 5, 2019 (11:19 am)

    I wonder if they plan to recompense homeowners/property owners for any damage caused by their malfunction?Or if it’s “Too bad so sad but no legal obligation to do anything”

    • Richard Maloney November 6, 2019 (10:37 am)

      I love questions I can answer.

      When the City sells water, it does so in its “proprietary” capacity, so the typical immunities don’t protect SPU.

      Better yet, water delivery systems are “closed,” and the burden shifts to SPU to disprove its presumed negligence (“res ipsa loquitur” has been applied to municipal water works).

      The damages owed may simply be repair costs.  Yet if the damaged real property experiences a substantial and permanent reduction in value, legal fees and diminished value damages become available.

      Finally, don’t trust the City’s claims functionaries if you experienced a loss.  Get your own estimates of repair/replacement and force Seattle to actually pay for the damage its water department caused.

  • Scott November 5, 2019 (1:52 pm)

    So whatever happened made our water heater fail.   The repair man went to Home Depot to get a new one and talked to (many) other repair people that were there picking up new water heaters.  My repair guy has had 5 calls today – Others have had up to 15 just today.  

    • Scott November 5, 2019 (3:40 pm)

      Well, the SPU inspector came out and gave me a claim form to fill out….Guess we’ll see what happens.      

  • chas redmond November 5, 2019 (2:04 pm)

    So is SPU saying they will take responsibility for fixing broken pipes and such? I’m aware of the Fire Dept. call in the Fauntleroy area and they said it was an overpressure situation but some of problems are on the customer side of the water line – so SPU responsible for fixes?

    • WSB November 5, 2019 (2:45 pm)

      I have not received the answer to that question yet. What you see above is all I have so far.

    • John November 5, 2019 (3:59 pm)

      This would not cause residential pipes or fittings to burst.   But, static pressure above 80 psi is too high and code requires pressure reducers.  Here in West Seattle,  we live at the highest point in the city with low pressure of 30 psi and some people install pressure pumps for their water, while where I grew up in Fauntleroy the pressure is well above 100 psi and every service requires a pressure regulator to reduce the pressure.  These are upstream of fixtures and designed to protect everything connected to the water system.  Many old water services did not have pressure regulators and unless they were updated, still don’t.

      • chemist November 5, 2019 (7:10 pm)

        Residential water pressure reducing valves can fail silently too.  The one at my 1960s house basically doesn’t make a seal anymore so the house experiences about 85 psi.  The pipes haven’t failed or anything major but the PRV set point adjustment does nothing.  It’s on the “to do” list for the next time I want to have a plumber over but I also don’t think I’m going to like what they charge for a 1.5″ PRV.

  • Question Authority November 5, 2019 (2:31 pm)

    If you have a properly installed pressure relief valve on your tank per code, you won’t need a new tank.  Testing it regularly and having it exhaust outside also adds to having no issues within the house.  

  • WSeattleite November 5, 2019 (2:39 pm)

    Had the same thing happen to me. Around 10:45 last night my water heater was rumbling. As soon as I turned the water heater off, water was gushing out of the outside pipes, and had to call the city to turn the water off to the entire condo unit.

  • home on alki November 5, 2019 (5:03 pm)

    Scott, thanks for posting that someone gave you a claim form to fill out.  I will be calling them myself, as several apartments in my building were negatively affected, with quite a bit of damage.

    • Alethea November 14, 2019 (11:14 am)

      I also received a claim form. My son’s bedroom flooded because of the hot water heater under the stairs. We had about an inch and a half of water. I have had to rip all the carpet out of the room and seal the cement floors after finding mold underneath  carpet pad. Now with 2 dehumidifiers in the room it doesn’t smell as bad, but this house is old and we rent. We don’t have renters insurance and this has caused a huge problem for us because I am a full time student and my son is a very curious & strong willed 3 year old. I’ve had to miss school.

      • WSB November 14, 2019 (11:46 am)

        I am sorry to hear that. I am working on a followup on this – if anyone has photos of damage done or other info to share beyond comments, we’re at westseattleblog@gmail.com – TR

  • Rhonda Porter November 5, 2019 (5:27 pm)

    Thanks, I’ll share this on Beach Drive Blog’s FB page (and of course give you a h/t).

  • WSB November 5, 2019 (5:53 pm)

    SPU has replied to my question with info about claim-filing. Adding info above.

  • Fauntlee Hills Resident November 5, 2019 (8:55 pm)

    Thank you all for the comments and information. I am one of the homeowners who was affected by this pressure surge, which appears to have broken the water line at the point it enters our home in “Fauntlee Hills” in upper Fauntleroy. I became aware of the problem at about 3am when I woke and heard water running into our basement (a couple of inches at that point). Shutting off the water internally would not stop flow which was coming thru points in concrete walls. Outside, water was coming up from over 3 feet underground and bubbling up a few inches off the surface.2 well – known plumbing companies already had their emergency repair teams out and unavailable at that time (related problems?).  I called the very helpful and responsive Fire Department to shut the water off at the street. They told me about the pressure surge and that they already  had about “six” related calls and expected more.Today plumbers arrived and are now excavating,  having to replace our entire water line out to the city connection.SPU inspectors were also initially helpful and responsive on the phone. But when they showed up in the afternoon they appeared to be notably uninterested in what actually may have caused this break, immediately writing it off to older galvanized piping (and I guess freakish middle of the night coincidence?), doing no further investigation & leaving (we have never had any issues or hint of leaks prior to this incident). But they did give me claim forms & info which I appreciated and will use.Thanks again WSB for reporting these issues.

  • what a waste of water November 5, 2019 (10:56 pm)

    I live on Alki and had the pressure relief valve to my heater open and draining water. This also occurred to 4 of the 5 houses next to me, with water flowing into the basement of at least 2 of them. When I spoke to the water company last night I was told that they had received about 10 calls at the time. An inspector came to look at my neighbors house but from what I have been told, she was just handed a claim form and a see you later.

  • Amy (Lincoln Park) November 7, 2019 (3:19 pm)

    Long-time reader, first-time poster.  We live on Fauntleroy, across from the north end of Lincoln Park. Our water heater failed sometime 11/4 and we woke up at 5:30 am on 11/5 to five inches of water in our finished basement. Learning of the SPU water valve issue,  I wanted to share referrals here of the two fantastic contractors who are bailing us out (pun intended). We called Serve PRO at about 6:45 am, and they were at our home by 8 am, to begin the water abatement and dehumidifying process. I can’t recommend them enough for their professionalism and take charge approach when we were simply devastated, we couldn’t think straight. Not sure how I even thought to call them, but they are fantastic. We then called plumbers who could quickly provide estimates to replace the water heater. After hearing estimates and feasibility assessment of going tankless or replacing with another tank, we hired Washington Water Heaters to install a replacement tank. One of the main reasons for our choice was that after providing an estimate yesterday (Wednesday), they were able to schedule the install today (Thursday). Unlike the other plumbers (who also knew their stuff), Washington Water Heaters only deals in water heaters, so we feel well educated about our options, and we believe we made a sound decision on the replacement, despite the urgent need. Footnote: We also had Washington Water Heaters install the recently failed water heater in 2011, so this tank was 8.5 years old and had never had any issues.A neighbor passing by our house today saw the plumber as he was wrapping up and mentioned this post. Thank you, WS neighbor!  I immediately called the SPU number listed (thank you, WSB) and received a callback from an inspector within minutes, with the name and contact number of the SPU Claims Coordinator. He assured me we’re doing everything right at this point, by saving receipts, coordinating ServePro to work with our insurance company, and he offered to drop off a paper claim form. I declined the offer, as I had already sourced the online form (http://www.seattle.gov/Documents/Departments/FAS/FilingADamageClaim/Seattle-claim-for-damages-form.pdf)Encourage any other folks who may have been affected by the SPU issue on Monday, 11/4 to look into filing a claim with SPU. Good luck to all impacted. 

    • WSB November 7, 2019 (3:21 pm)

      Thank you. I still have a followup in the works but probably another day or two.

Sorry, comment time is over.