Crews in Bellevue start digging to expose broken water main, search for answers

BELLEVUE, Wash. — Crews started work on Thursday to dig out three pieces of water main in Bellevue’s Sommerset neighborhood. This is part of the investigation into what caused a water main break and landslide in January that knocked a home off its foundation and destroyed it.

Contractors for the City of Bellevue worked carefully, digging slowly to expose the pipe without damaging it.

“Now it’s become a forensic event. If you’ve been to the property it’s all fenced off, (with) ‘no trespassing’ signs,” said John Surdi, who owns the property.

The goal of the dig is for experts to examine the water main and figure out what caused it to break on Jan. 17.

“I guess the city’s view is they might find something in the excavation that would allow them to point the finger at someone else,” said Dave Bricklin, the attorney representing the Surdi family.

“It was the city’s pipe, the city’s pipe broke and caused all this damage, and the city should be accepting responsibility for it without having to do all this,” Bricklin said.

John and Barb Surdi were sleeping at home on Jan. 17, when Barb woke up to a bang and saw water rushing in the neighborhood. Shortly after, they felt a major impact hit the home.

“I was catapulted, out of bed,” Barb Surdi said at the time. “The dresser came down, the glass came down, everything came down,” she said.

The Surdis lost just about everything. The house was too unstable to retrieve their belongings and their home had to be demolished.

Then, their insurance claim was denied.

“They said it was caused by a City of Bellevue water main,” John said. So the family filed a $5 million lawsuit against the city.

Now eight months later, the investigation into exactly what happened drags on.

“It’s very frustrating. I’ve reached the anger point now. It’s ridiculous,” John Surdi said. He said both he and his wife are still dealing with the trauma of the event as well.

“We live it every day. Sometimes I still have nightmares,” John Surdi said. “Barb still wakes up every day, every day at 4 a.m., the time of the slide,” he said.

The family is still paying a mortgage on a home that no longer exists, as the investigation continues.

The City of Bellevue says it can’t comment much on this active investigation and lawsuit, but said it expects work related to this excavation to take a couple of weeks. Experts from both parties will be able to examine the pipe once it’s exposed.