Council OKs more money for problematic sewer replacement project; addresses housing concerns


    The City of Edmonds is continuing to address a range of problems that have cropped during installation of new sewer line along 7th Avenue North and Edmonds Street, the Edmonds City Council learned during its Tuesday night business meeting.

    The 2018 sewer replacement project, which began mid-summer at Civic Field and has since extended east across 7th Avenue to Edmonds Street, is now more than half a million dollars over budget due to a complex mix of circumstances.

    In August, the council approved a change order for $175,000 to cover unanticipated expenses, including installation of a larger and more secure dewatering system to address high groundwater levels at the Civic Field site; removal and disposal of creosote-coated wood piles discovered during sewer pipe installation on Edmonds Street; and extensive repair and replacement of existing pavement on 7th Avenue North.

    The council also approved a $250,000 increase in the project’s management reserve in case of additional unforeseen problems.

    On Tuesday night, Public Works Director Phil Williams and Engineer Rob English explained the latest difficulty, which is related to the presence of peat in the underlying soil on Edmonds Street.

    “This peat is like pudding,” Williams said, “trying to build something on something that is inherently unstable.”

    English explained that peat is very compressible, which can cause settlement issues. The contractor was aware that peat was present in the soil, and the original plan to accommodate it was to install the sewer pipe in an envelope of lightweight aggregate.

    After the first 150 feet of sewer pipe was installed, however, the contractor had concerns and called for a video inspection of the line, which revealed that pipe was settling in several locations, English said.

    After consultation with city staff, the contractor tried what English described as Option 1, to excavate through the peat layer in an effort to find soil that could support the sewer line. The trench was then backfilled with concrete to establish a foundation for the new sewer pipe.

    This approach only worked for about 70 feet, English said,  because the underlying soil beneath the peat changed as the excavation continued east on Edmonds Street. The required excavation depth became too deep and it couldn’t be excavated with the contractor’s equipment, he said.

    The city and the contractor then came up with Option 2, to install wood piles at 10-foot intervals for the remaining 100 feet of pipe replacement. The idea was that the wood piles could be driven deep enough to reach the bearing soil beneath the existing peat layer.

    “That option was installed and completed, but a video inspection of the line revealed that in a few areas, the HTP pipe “became oblong” due to the sheer weight on the pipe, English said.

    The city is now looking at a third option for the last 100 feet of pipe installation, which involves creating a T support through fiberglass-reinforced board to go over the existing pipe and “spread the load away from the pipe,” English said. In addition, the HTP pipe was replaced with more rigid ductile iron pipe, he said.

    Calculations are still being finished, but if all goes well the plan is to implement Option 3 next week, he said.

    “We’re hoping that third solution will be the answer to the challenges we’ve encountered on Edmonds Street,” English said.

    The council approved the latest request — a change order for $275,000 plus an $80,000 increase in the construction management budget and $155,000 in additional management reserve. The money will come from the city’s sewer fund, which means there will be less money to spend on next year’s sewer projects, Williams said.

    The council also held four public hearings on the following topics:
    – A proposed street vacation for Excelsior Place. The council voted to continue this public hearing to next week after staff explained they had received new information about the project and wanted more time to research it.
    – Continuation of a moratorium on new residential construction without parking in the city’s Business District (BD) zone. The council voted to approve the continuation of this moratorium, which is aimed at giving the city time to change its code to ensure that parking is required for all multifamily projects in the BD zone.  See related story.
    – Critical area regulations for wetlands. The council voted to have staff draft an ordinance regarding these regulations, and bring them back to council for approval.
    – Moratorium extension on crumb rubber athletic fields. This moratorium will continue until February 2019, and could be extended further if long-awaited health and safety studies are not completed by that time. See related story.

    The council delayed until next week consideration of a proposal to authorize the mayor to sign an interlocal agreement with Sourcewell (Minnesota) for cooperative purchasing.

    During council comments at the end of the meeting, several councilmembers took the opportunity to address community concerns that have been expressed in recent weeks about the city’s draft Housing Strategy.

    “Right now we’re in the fact finding and understanding stage,” said Councilmember Diane Buckshnis. “And there will be a time when each councilmember will be able to provide their opinions, provide amendments or do whatever they want. But right now it’s nor really necessary for us as councilmembers to start making statements.”

    “Just let the public process play through and I think everybody will be happy in the end,” she said.

    Councilmember Neil Tibbott said that when he first was elected to the council, he had been involved as a citizen in trying to address a transportation issue in his neighborhood. He thought it would take five to 10 months to resolve the problem, but after three years there still wasn’t a solution, “and we’d gone through a lot o different scenarios.”

    “The housing strategy in a sense is no different,” Tibbott said. “We do have the fact-finding stage, we have a report that has recommendations in it and includes suggestions, it includes ideas and some of them are literally close to a brainstorm.”

    “We are still gathering citizen input,” Tibbott continued. “We are very, very interested in what citizens have to say and I personally have learned a lot by the comments that we have received.”

    Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas said it’s clear that some citizens feel like they aren’t being heard regarding the housing strategy. “I hope with time to come we will get more information from them and we’ll be able to provide maybe some corrective sorts of information so we don’t have this misinformation that’s occurring,” she said.

    “Listening is an important thing that electeds don’t always do,” she added. “We’re very good at giving opinions on issues but we’re not always so good on listening.”

    Fraley-Monillas also pointed to Council President Mike Nelson’s plan to hold a series of town halls citywide on the housing strategy, starting Oct. 1, as a way that citizens can express their ideas.

    — By Teresa Wippel

    2 Replies to “Council OKs more money for problematic sewer replacement project; addresses housing concerns”

    1. Building on a peat bog has literally sucked incredible amounts of public and private money in attempts to solve the problem. Ask Seattle, Vancouver B.C., Ireland, etc. Mitigating the downward pull of a bog as weight is applied appears to be considered as Option 3 for the costly sewer replacement project in Edmonds. Has the engineer investigated using a mat of “cells” rather than reinforced board to spread the weight vertically? Applied physics may have a better solution.


    2. Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas said it’s clear that some citizens feel like they aren’t being heard regarding the housing strategy. “I hope with time to come we will get more information from them and we’ll be able to provide maybe some corrective sorts of information so we don’t have this misinformation that’s occurring,” she said.
      Misinformation that’s occurring? Once again, another elected city official states that the public just doesn’t understand the Housing Strategy (“We’ll be able to provide maybe corrective sorts of information…”). Many citizens HAVE taken the time to read each and all versions of this Housing Strategy. They know exactly what is in the documents (and all the links provided by the city’s Development Director Shane Hope;
      This is why folks are so concerned. You can see the reality of the strategy already coming in the 91 unit Bartells project. Out of scale for Edmonds.
      The farther this Strategy gets down the road the harder it is to remove aspects of said strategy that citizens don’t want. But almost no significant changes have been made, even with all the citizen input given up to this point, so citizens correctly can agree with Councilmember Fraley-Monillas that those involved in crafting this Housing Strategy are “not always so good on listening”.


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