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Septic System Inspection Status in Clallam CountyImage result for dungeness spit image

Clallam County enjoys plenty of mountains, lakes, rivers, and beaches full of shellfish. Unfortunately, water pollution can limit access to outdoor attractions—even in seemingly “pristine” Clallam County. Bacteria in the water can make people and animals sick.

One source of bacterial pollution in our waterways includes failing Onsite Sewage Systems (OSS). In the late 1990s and early 2000s the problem even forced water quality downgrades limiting shellfish harvest around Dungeness Bay. Shellfish make up an important part of Washington State’s economy and poor water quality was not unique to Clallam County; much of Puget Sound suffered from bacterial pollution.

State Rules for Septic System Inspections

Over the past decade improvements have been made: water quality classifications have improved and many acres of shellfish beds have reopened.

Two State laws in place since before 2007 have helped drive improvements.

Clallam_MRA_inset_sm.jpgWAC 246-272A-270 requires regular inspection of septic systems by stating that septic system owners shall “assure a complete evaluation of the system components to determine functionality, maintenance needs, and compliance with regulations and any permits.” At a minimum, conventional systems must be inspected every three years and all other systems must be inspected annually. Regular inspections protect against failing systems that can pollute neighboring wells and waterways. As an added benefit, regular inspections can actually save money by avoiding costly maintenance later. Clallam County even offers septic inspection rebates when grant funding is available.

Meanwhile, Chapter 70.118A RCW led to creation of a Marine Recovery Area (MRA). Basically, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Olympic National Park, the Bagley Creek watershed, and Diamond Point make up the borders of the Clallam MRA. This area is recognized as particularly important for shellfish beds, sensitive to water quality issues, and worthy of extra care and attention.

Inspections and DIY

When the state legislature passed these laws it also required the twelve counties that border Puget Sound to develop septic system management plans. Clallam County recognized that these laws would have a tremendous effect on rural homeowners, so Environmental Health convened stakeholders to help develop a plan to implement these laws locally. The “Onsite Septic System Work Group” included representatives of a wide range of interests and met from October 2006 through November 2010 to develop and review recommendations for Clallam County. These recommendations are included in the Clallam County On-Site Septic System Management Plan, adopted by the Board of Health in June 2007. Septics201_DIY_banner.jpg

During the public process for developing Clallam County’s OSS Management Plan, many septic system owners expressed an interest in being trained to inspect their own system. As a result of this feedback, and at the workgroup’s suggestion, Environmental Health developed the Septics 201 “Do It Yourself” homeowner inspection training program using grant funding. 

See the Summary of Septic System Inspection Requirements for details on eligibility.  Interested homeowners have the option of free training online when their septic system is eligible or in-person classes to gain certification for “Do-it-Yourself” inspections. In-person classes are usually held multiple times each year as grant funding allows. Once a homeowner is certified to inspect their own septic system they will receive automated email reminders when their septic system is due for its next inspection and be able to submit those inspections directly online.

When homeowners must have their septic system inspected to meet governmental action requirements like for Property Transfers, Lot Alternations, Change of Use, Food Service or Building Permits (the last 4 of which require an inspection by a licensed septic system designer), or choose not to become certified to do their own routine maintenance inspections, they will need to hire a Professional Maintenance Provider from the list of currently licensed Providers in Clallam County.

 

It is the responsibility of every septic system owner to have their system inspected on a regular basis.

 

Clallam County Environmental Health (EH) is enforcing the state septic system inspection requirement as much as we are able with our current budget by focusing on target areas of concern while working towards adequate staffing levels. EH has been working with both the industry and other jurisdictions in the region to build capacity for needed services including homeowner education programs and accessible data online to meet this demand for additional service going forward.

Clallam County has one of the largest Marine Recovery Areas (MRAs) of the Puget Sound Local Health Jurisdictions with over 12,000 septic systems (more than ½ of the County’s total septic systems)!  The MRA has been above 25% compliance (percentage of septic system current on their inspections) since 2015 which is a number we are very proud of considering where we started. Clallam County still has a long way to go to meet the Results Washington and Puget Sound Vital Signs target goal of 60% compliance in the MRA by 2020! If your septic system is not Green on our map (see details in the Red to Green section below) you are now our target demographic.

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The “Red to Green” Program

The “Red-to-Green” project started in 2009 when the County received Centennial Clean Water Program grant funding through the Washington State Department of Ecology to update records, locate septic systems for which there were no records, and encourage inspections and system upgrades such as risers and outlet filters when possible. This program has continued with funding from the Washington State Department of Health to perform public education and outreach activities, offer rebates to encourage septic system inspections, and improve tracking and reporting capabilities.

Environmental Health (EH) tracks the septic system “inspection status” of developed parcels in the Clallam County Permit Database. Every developed parcel (according to Assessor records) in Clallam County that is not on sewer (as far as we know…) has a case in the database to store septic operations and maintenance (O&M) inspection records. If a parcel has a residence or business, but is not confirmed connected to a municipal sewer system, we assume the wastewater is going to an onsite septic system even if we don’t have a septic permit on file. 

To help track septic system inspection status, we have connected the permit database to our online maps, showing system status in the MRA and countywide.  The map color codes individual parcels to show the septic systems inspection status. See the Interactive OSS Status Map section below for more details.

Septic systems lacking records are considered “suspected” or “assumed” and are colored Red on the map. We estimate there are currently less than 300 such “lost” systems left to find in the MRA. This is down considerably from when the project began, though there are still over one thousand suspected septic systems left to verify countywide. Parcels with a known septic system but behind on inspections are Yellow. Parcels that have a recorded permit and a current inspection report on file are Green.

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2010 Dungeness Bay OSS & Shellfish status map  2016 Dungeness Bay OSS & Shellfish status map

As you can see from the comparison maps above, we have made a lot of progress on getting septic systems inspected since 2010. The acreage of approved commercial shellfish growing areas located in Dungeness Bay has also increased during that time.

EH is still actively working to locate all the suspected septic systems in the MRA. If you receive a letter from us, or find a flier on your door, please get in touch with EH using the contact information listed. If you have records or other information about your septic system, please share them with us.  The purpose of our letters and visits is to exchange information and convert the Red parcels on our septic system status map to Yellow, and eventually to Green

Getting your property to Green and keeping it Green by maintaining your septic system and having regular inspections helps protect our waters and can save you money in the long term. dollar sign

Remember, in the MRA the first inspection must be performed by a licensed septic system designer or maintenance provider.

Pumping is not the same as a full inspection where all the components of a septic system are inspected.

Interactive OSS Inspection Status Map

In 2016 Environmental Health (EH) worked with the Clallam County IT department to automate OSS Status Map updates. You can use this map to check the OSS inspection status of your property. The display is regularly updated automatically from our records.  

fix descripOSS Status Map example

On this online version of the “Red to Green” map the additional color of Orange represents more than one septic system on a property. Blue indicates that the lot is served by a Larger Onsite Septic System (LOSS) that is managed by the State Department of Health. Purple represents parcels confirmed connected to a municipal sewer system.  No color is applied to vacant parcels or where there is no plumbing known to be present.

The OSS Status Map uses the same general mapping tools as other County maps with the same functionality. General information about using County maps is available on the Mapping Features and Functions page.

OSS Status map layersThe image on the right shows the layers available on the OSS Status Map.  Uncheck those layers you do not want wish to see, then select the Refresh button to update your view. For a full definition of all the fields used on the OSS Status layer select “OSS_Status” from the Layers list and it will open the layer definition page with more complete details. You will not see any OSS Status details until you zoom in to the area of interest at a scale less than 100,000.ZoomOSS status map cropfix again

OSS Inspection Status Map Use Tips:

  • When the map first appears, the http://websrv17.clallam.net/aimsxwebsite/aimshelp/image001.gif Zoom In tool is active. Clicking on the screen will zoom in by half to that location. Using it to draw a box on the screen will zoom to the area of that box. You will not see any OSS Status details until you zoom in to the area of interest at a scale less than 100,000.
  • Use the Identify tool http://websrv17.clallam.net/aimsxwebsite/aimshelp/map_fu6.gif on the map to bring up a text summary of the OSS Status of the parcel (or parcels) you select. This summary will include links to the Online Permit System where additional details can be found as noted on the Septic Permit Information Available Online web page. It will also give the date of the system’s last inspection (or display “No Reports” if none have been filed recently), inspection frequency, and type of septic system as shown in the example below.

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  • The http://websrv17.clallam.net/aimsxwebsite/aimshelp/image002.gif Pan tool will drag the map view to an adjacent area.
  • The so much fix Find tool will bring up a search function that allows you to search for multiple records given incomplete information. If you only have part of the address or parcel number for your location of interest you can get multiple results from which to choose. Selecting the active Record number (on the left of the search results) will zoom to that location with the parcel selected.
  • The description needed Address Locator tool allows you to search by address in a more defined format and will rank the address results by relevance when there are multiple possibilities.
  • If known, enter the parcel Geo ID in the Zoom to Parcel field on the bottom of the map to go directly to the location of interest. Zoom to parcel
  • The http://websrv17.clallam.net/aimsxwebsite/aimshelp/map_function_help_files/image001.gif Clear Selection Tool can be used de-select a parcel on the map image. another
  • The http://websrv17.clallam.net/aimsxwebsite/aimshelp/map_function_help_files/image002.gif Hyperlink from Active Layer tool will link directly from the map to the Online Permit Center for further details.
  • Thehttp://websrv17.clallam.net/aimsxwebsite/aimshelp/image003.gif Back to Last Extent button will return the map to its previous location and scale.
  • There is a pop-up box that will display with each change in view on the map to remind users of possible data inaccuracies with the message shown to the right. It is a bit of a hassle to close each time but an important part of presenting such detailed data online.

 

Interactive web maps provide a powerful tool to access and visually display property information. The array of tools and options can, however, prove intimidating—especially to new users. If in doubt about the status of your septic system, don’t hesitate to contact Clallam County Environmental Health. We hope the information and resources presented here support your efforts to keep your septic system functioning without problems for many years to come.

Return to the Onsite Septic Systems main page.

Clallam County Health & Human Services
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