'Sewer detectives' search Madison Park for sewage leak

by: David Ham Updated:


Seattle Public Utilities inspectors were testing storm water samples in Madison Park on Thursday, looking for a house that could be leaking raw sewage into the storm-water system. Those sewage samples could go into nearby Lake Washington.

"We're looking for any discharges of pollutants that shouldn't be in our system and shouldn't be going into our lakes streams and rivers," said Ellen Stewart of Seattle Public Utilities.

The inspectors found the higher-than-normal fecal coliform levels in the storm-water system as part of routine testing. 

"We're taking samples, we're literally going up the system segment by segment trying to figure out where this pollution is coming from and it ends at someone's front door," said Stewart.

The problem stems from cross connected pipes that are from a plumbing repair, remodel, or legacy construction projects.

Inspectors are regularly searching for higher than normal fecal coliform levels across the city during the summer. They find about one to five houses with cross-connected pipes every month.

"Some of these mistakes can be very costly; it really depends on what's cross-connected how it's cross-connected," said Stewart.

Inspectors estimate repairs could cost anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000.

"I hope it's not my house, but if it is then I feel as homeowner obviously I would have to fix it," said Jennifer Girard, who lives in the neighborhood where inspectors were testing.

If a homeowner doesn't make the repairs they could face fines or even a lien on their house.

Inspectors don't think the higher-than-normal fecal coliform levels in the Madison Park area will restrict nearby Lake Washington. However, inspectors are hoping to pinpoint the house with the leak soon.

"We want to get it taken care of as soon as possible," said Stewart.