OLYMPIA – On Tuesday, September 12, the Thurston County Commissioners received public testimony on a proposed ordinance to re-enact rates and charges to continue to fund the Henderson Inlet Shellfish Protection District’s on-site sewage system work plan. The Thurston County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the update to the Henderson Septic Ordinance for the next 10 years.
The Shellfish Protection District in Henderson Inlet has a septic system monitoring and maintenance program set to expire December 31, 2017. The updated ordinance adds a $10 charge for each additional residential septic system on a property, and adjusts rates for larger non-residential systems.
”We are very happy with the success of this program since its creation in 2007,” said Commission Chair Bud Blake. “We want the water quality to continue to improve in Henderson Inlet to better the environment and also allow for the Department of Health to open more acres of shoreline for shellfish harvesting. It’s a great return on investment for our residents.”
From 1984 - 2005, the Washington State Department of Health restricted shellfish harvesting on 657 acres in Henderson Inlet due to water contamination from fecal coliform bacteria. The septic program created an inventory of local systems and provides education and training, along with monitoring and direct follow-up with residents. According to Washington State Department of Ecology and Department of Health studies, the program has contributed to water quality improvements, resulting in the re-opening of 366 acres of commercial shellfish harvesting.
Currently, eighty-six percent of systems in Henderson are up-to-date with inspections and maintenance, compared to twenty-six percent for systems outside of Henderson and Nisqually that do not have operational certificates. The program currently covers an area with 6,700 systems. The high percentage of well-maintained systems, given the large number of systems in the area, shows how successful this effort has been. This is the highest inspection rate in the Puget Sound region.
The updated ordinance specifies the work to be financed by the rates and charges, and also includes additional water quality testing in an attempt to identify sources of pollution contributing to fecal coliform contamination in the Henderson Inlet Shellfish Protection District.
“This program is recognized in the state, and the nation, as the gold standard for improving septic impacts on water quality. The success rate is impressive, and we want to continue that work,” added Commissioner Blake.