Langley sorting out sewer failure fight

Tim Grove discusses the process for treating sewage at the Langley treatment facility on Coles Road.  - Ben Watanabe/ The Record
Tim Grove discusses the process for treating sewage at the Langley treatment facility on Coles Road.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe/ The Record


Langley is gearing up for a possible legal fight over its responsibility for a sewer line failure on Fourth Street last year.

At best, Mayor Fred McCarthy said the city will settle for an amount up to $15,000. The problem stems from an old main sewer line that failed in 2013, causing part of a Fourth Street home to have sewage back up into its laundry room, Langley Public Works Director Stan Berryman said. Berryman was not employed by the city at the time, but has caught up on the issue at hand as the city consulted with its risk management pool.

One of the complicating factors of the potty problem is that the city is technically only responsible for the main line, and property owners are in charge of the hookup from their home to the main.

“Normally site sewers are, by the code, completely the property owner’s responsibility right up to the main,” Berryman said.

McCarthy, who is a neighbor of the homeowners and let them use his bathrooms while their sewer was being fixed, added that the problem is complex.

“What makes this a complicated situation is that the property owner is maintaining the city’s failure of the main line is what made the [home’s] service line ineffective,” the mayor said.

According to McCarthy, the homeowners have not filed a damages claim or a lawsuit against the city, though they are getting a legal opinion on what step they should take.

“That is an option in the future … but we’re hoping for a settlement somehow,” said McCarthy, adding that the city offered the owners a tort claim form, which would mean Langley would reimburse about $8,000 for the work, but pay nothing for damages.

Berryman said the Fourth Street home, behind the Island Church of Whidbey, was originally connected to a city-owned main line. Estimated to be at least 50 years old, the line eventually failed, either by collapsing or clogging. And that caused the sewage to back up into the home, the last one on the street still connected to that main.

“It’s never very pleasant,” Berryman said.

A Langley Public Works crew pressure cleaned the line, and it now works, Berryman said. McCarthy said the city had not spoken with its legal advisor, Jeff Taraday of the Lighthouse Law Group, about the issue because he still hoped the city would reach an agreement with the property owners.


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