Photos & Story by Scott Schaefer

UPDATE WEDNESDAY, APRIL 20, 2016: The City of Burien said Wednesday (April 20) that the cause of the sinkhole on SW 136th – which resulted in the road being closed down – has been identified as “sewer infrastructure problems.”

“Southwest Suburban Sewer District has assumed responsibility for repairs and reconstruction of the road,” the city announced. “The Sewer District crew will be on site early Thursday morning to begin repairs.”

Its goal is to reopen the closed portion of SW 136th Street between 1st Ave South and 1st Ave SW by the end of the week.

Since Wednesday morning (April 20), City of Burien crews have been on site to investigate the sinkhole and surrounding area for potential causes. The crews are removing portions of the street surface in order to view the street bed and infrastructure beneath. At this point, the cause has not yet been identified, and the road remains closed to traffic. Once the cause is identified, repairs can begin. Barring unforeseen circumstances, the City expects the street to reopen to traffic within one to two weeks, if not sooner.


A sinkhole has developed on SW 136th Street between 1st Ave South and 1st Ave SW (map below) in Burien, closing the road to traffic as of Tuesday, April 19, through Wednesday, April 20.

While we were on scene Tuesday afternoon, the road was closed, and cones and tape were being used to cordon off the sinkhole, which measured between 4-6 feet in diameter.

A second, much smaller hole was observed, and was partially covered by its own cone (see two lower photos above).

No evidence of dips or other signs of growth were visible, although it appeared that some digging had been done in a nearby alley.

A nearby resident said the sinkhole first appeared last Saturday, and has remained “around the same size” ever since. Initially, she said that cones were placed around the hole, but that the city came out and closed the entire area Tuesday.
Another passerby, when asked if he knew what caused it, shrugged his shoulders and said:

“Who knows man…the earth doesn’t always tell us what’s going on…”

The City did not release any theories on what might be causing the sinkhole, but said that closure updates will be provided as possible.

“Please consider alternative routes,” the city added.


Since 2007, The B-Town Blog is Burien’s multiple award-winning hyperlocal news/events website dedicated to independent journalism.

6 replies on “UPDATE: Sinkhole on SW 136th caused by sewer infrastructure problems”

  1. Remembered, a few years back when Southwest Sewer serviced our street; they mentioned that part of 136th still had wooden pipes.

  2. A few years back I was on an advisory committee that recommended a significant increase in rates to finance a systematic upgrade of the sewer system as the best and cheapest long range solution to replace a deteriorating system, The commissioners chose to defer upgrades so they wouldn’t have to support an increase in rates.
    This seems to be a local example of the “No new taxes” mentality that is letting our infrastructure at all levels deteriorate badly. They cut finds for programs (IRS, transportation, state auditor, parks, etc) and when things deteriorate, they say the department doesn’t deserve funding because it does a poor job. It makes no sense unless the goal is just to push all the problems off onto the next generation.

    1. And the inherent consequences are it only costs more when you finally get around to it. Much like the phrase ” there’s never time to do it right but there’s always time to do it over”

  3. What parts of Burien still have wood sewer pipes? Do these pipes run under homes or mostly streets? Thanks.

  4. It’s is time to set the record straight: The City of Burien does not have sewer lines. Burien has storm drains/lines. Your local sewer utility, Southwest Suburban Sewer District (SWSSD), owns and operates the sewer system that provides sewer service to White Center, The City of Burien, The City of Normandy Park and to small area’s of The Cities of Seattle, Seatac and Des Moines. There are no, I repeat NO wooden sewer lines in SWSSD’s system. The sewer pipes are made of concrete, PVC, HDPE, cast iron or ductile iron.
    How do I know this? I’ve been employed by SWSSD since the fall of 1982 and am currently the Sewer Department Supervisor for the District. For more information call our office or visit our website:

    1. Is it true what they say about working with live sewage.
      #1 Poop flows downhill.
      #2 Never bite your fingernails.
      #3 You eventually learn to enjoy the smell.

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