Sewer main collapse hurts Christmas eve business and services

by: Natasha Chen Updated:

LYNNWOOD, Wash. - A collapsed sewer main caused a traffic backup around Alderwood Mall and delayed church services on Christmas Eve.

On Monday, people noticed sewage bubbling out of a manhole. Public works crews quickly tried to fix it, but the problem got bigger.

"They responded out here, and thought they had some things fixed, then more pipes collapsed, and more bubbling out of manholes," said Les Rubstello, with the Lynnwood Public Works Department.

Rubstello said that some sewer lines in the city are 40 years old. A different line collapsed a few years ago, but this one collapsed at the worst possible time.

The sewage coming from the Alderwood Mall businesses and hotels nearby "used to flow underground. We now have a big green hose carrying it above ground, which is not a big deal except that it's blocking Alderwood Mall Boulevard," Rubstello said.

The blocked portion from 33rd Avenue West to 40th Avenue West caused major detours for last-minute shoppers trying to get to the mall.

Shop owners like Lissy Villa also noticed a big difference. Usually on Christmas Eve, she gets a lot of procrastinators coming in for last-minute gifts. But Tuesday, she heard customers talk about how difficult it was to get to her store, Wild Bird Nest.

"And here we are, waiting for people," she said.

Beyond the stores, Alderwood Community Church wondered what it would do for its three Christmas Eve services.

"It happened to be right against our property," said David Ballbach, administrative pastor for the church.

Ballbach said they had shared the information with their congregation via Facebook and other social media. He had people stationed at the end of the street, directing cars to nearby parking lots.

"Typically Christmas Eve we have full houses. Don't know if that's going to happen tonight or not, but we're hoping so," he said.

Public works crews will have to work on Christmas and likely the day after, to replace as much as 300 ft. of failed pipeline. Alderwood Mall Boulevard will be closed until then.