About those Sunday afternoon booms you heard on Capitol Hill…

(Image: @primaseadiva via Flickr)

The booms you heard Sunday afternoon across Capitol Hill and the Central District? That was the central city’s surprisingly robust power grid doing what it needed to do to keep service intact even when faced with the greatest electricity infrastructure scourge known — the mylar balloon.

Seattle City Light said there were no prolonged outages but that many callers reported “mylar balloons in the lines.”

CHS had one report of balloons in the wires on 15th Ave E.

Residents reported loud booms from electrical utility gear throughout the early afternoon. The utility also made a District 3 endorsement — of sorts. City Light says D3 candidate Logan Bowers’s Twitter explanation of what was causing the booms was, ahem, “bang on” — Continue reading

Work to strengthen Capitol Hill’s grid continues with E Union underground project

Shoes on the wires. Seattle, WA. August 2016.

east_union_overall_project_map-1024x759Slowly but surely, Seattle City Light is moving Capitol Hill’s electrical wires underground to create a safer, more stable power system for the neighborhood.

A five-month project to install underground electrical vaults and equipment will begin later this month along E Union on the backside of Pike/Pine, the city announced this week. Continue reading

City Light heads into overtime after seagull reportedly knocks out Pike/Pine power

Cal Anderson mural - seagull

See latest outage updates at seattle.gov/light/sysstat/

See latest outage updates at seattle.gov/light/sysstat/

Seattle City Light crews were racing against the clock Saturday morning with several Pike/Pine and Broadway bars and restaurants rooting for a last minute big play. Meanwhile, area seagulls were in mourning.

A power outage starting around 8 AM left more than 300 customers in the dark around the intersection of Pine and Broadway Saturday as fans awaited the noontime kickoff of the national semifinal college football game pitting Washington vs. Alabama in the Peach Bowl. “We were planning on showing the Huskies at noon. Will keep you posted when power is back on. Crossing our fingers, @SEACityLight!,” @optimismbrewing tweeted.

A department representative tells CHS that Seattle Fire reported the outage was caused by a seagull that touched overhead lines, causing a “bridge” that overloaded current and destroyed equipment at the scene. Overhead crews aren’t typically on call on the weekend so City Light workers headed into overtime to try to help area watering holes be part of the big game.

Seattle City light estimated a 1:30 PM restoration of service.

Increasing sewer problems can be a nasty nuisance for older Capitol Hill buildings

During a busy night a Nacho Borracho, the Capitol Hill bar’s plumbing was having a tough time keeping up with the margarita drinking crowd. When the problem persisted the following night, owner Rachel Marshall knew something was up.

The culprit turned out to be the roots of a Broadway tree that had obstructed the building’s sewer pipe connecting to a city sewer main. To fix it, a plumber had to cut up the sidewalk and replace part of the pipe. The bill came to a whopping $35,000, according to Marshall. Luckily for her, the building’s property owner picked up the tab. “It was an awfully good piece of news,” she said.

While the cost of Nacho Borracho’s repair was unusually high, similar sewer repairs are becoming increasingly common around Capitol Hill. As buildings age, so do the original pipes that connect homes and commercial properties to the city’s sewer system. Eventually these so-called side sewer lines crack or even worse, become blocked causing raw sewage to spill out in all the wrong places. Fixing the lines can be costly and a massive inconvenience.

In recent years, plumbers have been increasingly busy fixing side sewer lines around Capitol Hill. According to city permit data, there were 114 side sewer permits issued around Capitol Hill in 2011. In 2015, side sewer activity more than doubled to 241 issued permits. It’s a citywide trend in a Seattle that turns 163 this May 23rd. Continue reading

Lead concerns prompt Seattle warning on drinking water in city’s old houses

Seattle Public Utilities is asking residents living in older homes across the city to let tap water run before drinking it amid concerns about lead in old city pipes.

Thursday’s warning affects about 2,000 houses around Seattle built between the 1920s and 1950s, KIRO reported.

The specific recommendation? Run tap water for a few minutes — “especially if water sits stagnant for six hours.”

The warning comes after high levels of lead were found in four Tacoma homes tested following the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. Galvanized iron pipes used in the old homes is a likely source for any contamination.

KIRO also reports that Seattle Public Utilities will test water at a small number of Seattle homes serviced by galvanized lines to determine if elevated levels are present. The testing results could be available within five days. SPU will also be providing a full list of homes serviced by galvanized pipes, according to KIRO.

While at a much smaller scale than the Flint contamination where lead pipes play a larger role in the water system, the Tacoma findings have concerned officials — especially since the contamination was identified in water taken from pipes around — not inside — the homes. The Tacoma News Tribune has documented how the testing in that city was done here. Lead “gooseneck” pipes in the Tacoma system could also have played a role and were replaced with copper fittings at the tested homes, the TNT reports.

Though many of the neighborhoods have been swept by ongoing waves of development, much of the city’s remaining stock of old homes can be found from the north of Capitol Hill along its eastern edge into Madison Valley and the Central District.

We’re checking with SPU to find out if the warning extends to remaining apartment buildings built during the same era.

High lead levels can be a serious health concern — especially for children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there is no safe level of lead in drinking water:

No safe blood level has been identified and all sources of lead exposure for children should be controlled or eliminated. Lead concentrations in drinking water should be below the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency’s action level of 15 parts per billion.

After weekend of power outages on Capitol Hill, windstorm could bring more

With a windstorm bearing down Tuesday on the Puget Sound, officials are ready for downed trees, flooding, and power outages across the region. Capitol Hill got in front of the trend over the weekend with two prolonged outages that made for some quiet times at some of the businesses and apartment buildings of Broadway and Pike/Pine.

Saturday, an outage centered around 13th and Pine left around 720 customers without power including Northwest Film Forum which was forced to do some creative rescheduling. Sunday, the hours-long outage hit around 300 customers near Broadway and John.

City Light at work Sunday  -- thanks to Reader B for the picture

City Light at work Sunday — thanks to Reader B for the picture

CHS asked Seattle City Light if recent power work going on around 11th Ave next to Cal Anderson Park was related to the twin outages over the weekend but a department spokesperson said we just were unlucky. Saturday’s more than five-hour outage was caused by the failure of “a sectionalizer and a fuse on an overhead power line.” Sunday’s culprit? We might see more soon. City Light says a tree a fell into power lines and took the wires down.

Meanwhile, the windstorm is predicted to bring strong winds starting Tuesday morning through the evening with speeds around 25 to 40 MPH and gusts up to 60 MPH across much of the lowlands — and, yes, even the highlands of Capitol Hill. Charge your mobile devices.

On sunny Capitol Hill, local solar has been a tougher than usual sell


The solar panels at 10th and E John (Image: Capitol Hill Housing)

Planetarily speaking, you know Seattle’s record breaking warm and dry winter is nothing to boast about. It’s hard not to feel guilty posting sun soaked photos on Facebook while your East Coast friends suffer in a climate change-induced frozen tundra. Since we’re probably on track for more of the same, one guilt-free way to benefit from our sunnier winters is to invest in some local solar energy.

Last year, CHS told you about the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict’s plans for a community-backed solar project at a 10th and E John property owned by Capitol Hill Housing. The solar panels are up and running atop the Holiday Apartment building and around 1,200 units went up for sale last year.

The Capitol Hill Housing site is City Light’s fourth community solar project and has been one of the slowest to sell out. According to Suzanne DuRard, who manages the program for City Light, earlier projects captured many of the customers who were most passionate about solar. Continue reading

Cal Anderson’s hatches to open for Lincoln Reservoir cleaning and maintenance

Lincoln Reservoir — now covered by Cal Anderson (Images: City of Seattle)

With happy times and green space above, below Cal Anderson Park lurks two 6.25 million-gallon vaults full of clear, cool, Seattle Public Utilities drinking water. Soon, portions of Capitol Hill’s central park will be fenced off for a month of maintenance in the subterranean Lincoln Reservoir.

According to SPU, the reservoir will be drained, inspected and then washed and its roof, hatches, vents and screens will be inspected. “Repairs to the system will also be made and debris will be removed from the reservoir’s perimeter and grounds as needed,” a notice from SPU to be posted at the work site reads. Continue reading

Weekend Capitol Hill streets report: Pine/Broadway closure, Denny Way work, ’emergency’ Melrose sewer project

Cars — even Fuschia Z-cars — and trucks and buses and motorscooters, etc. will find some challenging streets around Capitol Hill this weekend. Below are a few projects to plan your routes around.

  • Pine/Broadway detours: The busy intersection of Pine and Broadway will be closed to motor vehicles in all directions on Saturday and Sunday for more streetcar work. Vehicle traffic will be detoured around the intersection.

The intersection of East Pine Street and Broadway in the Capitol Hill Neighborhood will be closed to traffic on Saturday and Sunday, June 14-15. Closures will be from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. each day and are required for overhead electrical installations associated with construction of the First Hill Streetcar.
Continue reading

Capitol Hill’s power grid ready to meet surprisingly low demands of development boom

There are at least 25 new buildings on Capitol Hill waiting for a Seattle City Light hookups and new requests are coming in about once a month.

Despite all that development in a relatively small area, City Light officials tell CHS the biggest challenge isn’t actually meeting the demand for power, which the neighborhood grid is well equipped to handle. Instead, the biggest challenge is the complicated scheduling and manpower required to move electrical poles and lines to make way for new construction and provide hook-ups when construction crews need it. Continue reading