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Kirkland construction owner warns utility district customers of tank farm collapse

The roof of a 4 million gallon reservoir at Inglemoor Tank Farm collapsed on July 22, 2013, discharging a valve and leaking water into the surrounding area. - Sarah Kehoe, Reporter Newspapers
The roof of a 4 million gallon reservoir at Inglemoor Tank Farm collapsed on July 22, 2013, discharging a valve and leaking water into the surrounding area.
— image credit: Sarah Kehoe, Reporter Newspapers

The roof of a 4 million gallon reservoir at Inglemoor Tank Farm collapsed on July 22, 2013, discharging a valve and leaking water into the surrounding area.

But the public was never told about the incident.

"As a rate payer and member of public, I feel the Northshore Utility District (NUD) should make the public, especially the immediate neighbors, aware of this occurrence and assure them of the safeguards that the district would implement to prevent similar incidents in the future," said Essy Mohazzabfar, Kirkland resident and owner of Construction International, Inc. "These people deserve to know what's going on in their neighborhood."

Mohazzabfar owns Construction International,Inc. in Kirkland and managed water companies in Woodinville and King County.

"So I am personally affected by the district's decisions since I own 13 properties around the area," Mohazzabfar said. "Also, I am a taxpayer and believe they are spending our money improperly."

Northshore Utility District operation staff were alerted to the issue by painters working on the top of the tank and the discharge valve was closed and tended to fairly quickly. Although the problem was fixed, Mohazzabfar still believes the public needs to be informed of the problem.

"This mistake could have potentially cost taxpayers nearly a million dollars in repairs, consultant fees, staff time and legal fees," Mohazzabfar said.

The tank is the second reservoir of three at 8204 NE 150th Street. During the time of the incident, painters had placed plastic over a large air valve used to filter in air to avoid getting paint fumes into the tank. At the same time, the utility authorized workers to open a water valve and pull a vacuum inside the reservoir, which caused beams supporting the structure to twist and break and the roof to collapse, stated utility district documents obtained through a public records request.

"The water level inside the tank dropped more than 1.5 feet in about 10 minutes. The painters, still working on the roof, heard the vibrations from the collapse and yelled for workers to shut the valve," according to a July 26 work report by the utility.

"The fact that the district knew their air valve was covered and still opened their water valve shows a complete lack of communication between departments and a lack of care," Mohazzabfar said.

In an email to the district Engineering Manager Dave Kaiser on July 30, Dennehy gives Kaiser a few paragraphs about the incident for Kaiser to send to his employees to alert them of the situation. In the email, Dennehy states, "the tank has been taken off line and drained in order to allow us to enter the tank to perform a more detailed inspection. We were able to inspect the tank yesterday along with our insurance provider, WCIA, and believe that the damage is limited to approximately one-third of the roof support structure. Our goal is to perform repair work early next year in conjunction with proposed modifications to reservoir 1."

In October, Mohazzabfar was alerted to the incident by a Northshore Utility District worker. Mohazzabfar filed a public records request with the utility, but says he's had a difficult time getting them to provide all the documents.

"I feel like I am being stonewalled by the district," Mohazabfar said. "They send me the requested documents, but always in a way that is very inconvenient or in documents I can't open."

Fanny Yee, the utility's general manager, says the district was under no obligation to alert the public of the accident because there was no risk to life or property and the district is still going through a legal process of looking over the incident.

"There were no damages to our finances," Yee said. "Had we felt the public was in danger in any manner, we would have alerted them. But this was an unfortunate situation that was immediately attended to and is still in the process of getting looked over."

Mohazzabfar has done his own independent reviews on the site, collecting several documents on what's occurring at the reservoir site and receiving advice from other utility district's on how they prevent similar incidences from happening at their sites.

He says he has asked the commissioners on the Northshore Utility District board to come forward and inform the public of this incident, but they have not gotten back to him. He has only received information from public requests he's made over the past few months.

"I think it's concerning they won't step up and talk to the public," Mohazzabfar said. "Frankly it has me worried."

Yee says the district has worked hard to respond to Mohazzabfar's requests and have done everything they were required to do to get him the information.

"I really don't know what he expects us to do," Yee said. "It has cost the district a lot of staff time to comply with the information he's requesting, but we are doing it."

Yee said Mohazzabfar requested every single document the district would have concerning the tank accident.

"We have 15 gigabytes of information and we told him that was way too much money to print for him as he requested," she said. "We burned it on a CD so he could look at it."

Mohazzabfar claims the CDs that were given to him were faulty.

"If that's the case it was because we repeatedly asked him to schedule an appointment with us so we could help him get what he wanted, but he dropped in unannounced one day and we had to scramble to get everything together he wanted," Yee said. "If we'd had time, we would have had everything together for him and tested the CDs on our laptops to ensure they worked properly."

Documents from the inspection on July 23 show the extent of the damage is limited to about one-third of the roof area. It was recommended that the district repair four damaged girders, angle seats for rafters and the depressed roof plate.

"Once we get the process resolved, we are ready to contact (the media) and let them know the details," Yee said.

Mohazzabfar says he won't stop looking into this matter until he feels the district is more transparent.

"I don't feel like they are running this like a public entity," he said. "It seems like they are treating this like an exclusive club and I'm sick of it."

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