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'The sewage was coming up from the shower:' Water main break floods 3 homes in Burien

Investigators are trying to figure out what caused a water main to break that flood three homes in Burien along First Avenue South Sunday night. (Photo: Teasha Jordan-Smith)

BURIEN, Wash. - Investigators are trying to figure out what caused a water main to break that flood three homes in Burien along First Avenue South Sunday night.

The damage was so bad in one home, it's no longer safe to live in.

Homeowner Sean Choi says his duplex and tenants got hit the hardest.

“They said sewage was coming up from the shower and the toilet, that it was like a volcano,” said Choi. “They were barefoot in raw sewage, trying to put their possessions up high so it wouldn't be damaged.”

Choi's tenants living downstairs snapped several cellphone pictures of themselves in ankle deep water.

“All their stuff is ruined. It just smells terrible. The floor is all crazy. The baseboards are coming off the walls,” said Choi.

Tenant Teasha Jordan-Smith is a single mother with four boys. She now has a lot more to worry about than the upcoming holidays.

“Our whole house is ruined. We've got poop water in the walls now. My son has asthma,” said Jordan-Smith.

She was making dinner around 8 p.m. and getting ready to eat when her kids said the bathroom started flooding.

Choi says water from the broken water main overwhelmed the septic tank that connects to the duplex, forcing the family to evacuate. Choi and another tenant living upstairs also evacuated.

“My son was crying on the way out. Our Christmas tree is going to be flooded with ‘poop water.’ I said ‘Don't worry about the Christmas tree. We got to go now,'" said Jordan-Smith.

KOMO News checked with the City of Burien and Water District 20. According to Burien, the water main is not the city’s responsibility, but rather that it’s a water district issue.

“We had a 10 inch cast iron water main break,” said Dick Swaab, the Water District 20 General Manager. “The pipe was installed in the 50s. The soil was good there. It could be stress on the pipe due to weather conditions. We've had lots of rain. Now the ground is drying out, shifting and that plays a factor in it.”

The water district says it’s an isolated incident. It also says unfortunately, in a case like this, it's up to the homeowner to check with homeowner's insurance to pay for the damages.

"This was a brand-new remodel. It just finished in October. The tenants just moved in November," said Choi.

The Jordan-Smith family now has no place to go, no clothes, or ammenities. They also did not have renter's insurance.

“We were going through some homelessness,” said Jordan-Smith, a medical assistant. “I just got a job, and got our place. We just started to get furniture. We didn’t have much yet. Things were supposed to be coming this week. We just started to get things back together and here we go...back in a motel.”

Choi, their landlord, has offered to put them up in a motel for a few days. The Red Cross has also stepped in and offered the families impacted some help.

But, Jordan-Smith says it’s going to be tough to get her kids ready to go back to school, find a new place to live, and offer them some comfort for the holidays.

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