Skip to main content

Thurston County, Washington

The content on the Thurston County website is currently provided in English. We are providing the “Translation” for approximately 10 languages. The goal of the translation is to provide visitors with limited English proficiency to access information on the website in other languages. The translations do not translate all types of documents, and it may not give you an exact translation all the time. The translations are made through an automated process, which may not result in accurate or precise translations, particularly of technical and legal terminology.

Public Health and Social Services

Quick Links: 

Basics on How On-Site Sewage Systems Function (WA DOH) 

Land Use & Environmental Review Fee Schedule 

Hiring a Septic Professional 


Permit Search:

All Permit Applications and Forms | CitizenForward (

Current Permit Information 

Lookup current permit status for Septic and Land Use Projects.


Historic Septic Permit Information 

From the yellow box titled Search Permit Archives. You will need your permit, project, or parcel number to complete the search.

Homeowner and Maintenance Requirements

septic professional pumping septic tank

Permitting Resources

  • Craft 3 - Loans to Replace Failing Septic Systems - Craft 3 Community Partners administer low-interest loans to help residents who live in Thurston County repair failing septic systems.
  • Low Income Grants- Need financial assistance for basic septic system maintenance? Thurston county has a small grant program for Thurston County homeowners who live in the shellfish growing areas of Dana Passage, Totten, Eld, Henderson, Nisqually, and northern portion of Budd Inlet. The Grant provides up to $500 to qualifying homeowners for septic system inspections, tank pumping, tank access riser installation, and minor system repairs.
  • Riser Rebate Request Form and Information - This program provides $50 rebates per riser, up to $100, for installing 24-inch diameter risers over septic system manholes for septic system homeowners in the shellfish growing areas of Dana Passage, Totten, Eld, Henderson, Nisqually, and northern portion of Budd Inlet. Risers make future inspections and pumping much easier—little to no digging hereafter. This rebate is only for existing systems. Call 360-867-2644 if you have questions.

Thurston County On-site Sewage Systems Management Plan

This management plan was developed in response to state law (RCW 70.118A and WAC 246-272A-0015) that requires the County to identify areas where septic systems (on-site sewage systems or OSS) might pose a risk to public health and develop strategies for managing systems in those areas. These state laws required that Thurston County develop a written plan that specified how we would:
  • Progressively develop and maintain an inventory of all known OSS in operation within Thurston County.
  • Identify areas where OSS could pose an increased public health risk, or contribute to degraded water quality.
  • Identify operation, maintenance and monitoring requirements commensurate with the risks posed by OSS within sensitive areas.
  • Enforce OSS owner permit application, operation, monitoring, maintenance, and failure repair requirements.
  • Develop a methodology for establishing Marine Recovery Areas (MRAs).
  • Develop a database for keeping records associated with MRAs.
  • Inventory all OSS in MRAs by 2012 and ensure all failing systems are serviced.
  • Educate homeowners regarding their responsibilities for the operation and maintenance of their OSS.
  • Remind and encourage homeowners to complete their operation and maintenance inspections.

This legislation directed local health officers of the twelve Puget Sound counties bordering Puget Sound to take further actions to reduce fecal coliform pollution and the degradation and loss of marine life in Puget Sound caused by low-dissolved oxygen conditions. The legislation directed local health officers to create Marine Recovery Areas in areas where on-site sewage systems are polluting Puget Sound. 

The Marine Recovery Area (MRA) strategy must specify how, by July 12, 2012, the local health officer will:

  • Find existing failing systems and ensure that system owners make necessary repairs, and
  • Find unknown systems and ensure that they are inspected and functioning properly and repaired, if necessary.

In November 2006, an advisory committee was convened to develop recommendations for the County’s on-site sewage system management plan and the revision of Article IV of the Thurston County Sanitary Code (on-site sewage system regulations). The committee met 10 times from November 2006 to September 2007. Their recommendations are the backbone of this plan.

Plan Recommendations: 

  • Henderson Inlet and Nisqually Reach be recognized as Marine Recovery Areas (MRAs).
  • Eld Inlet should be considered as MRA.
  • Thurston County should evaluate other areas to determine if they should be MRAs or sensitive areas.
  • Thurston County on-site sewage system (OSS) regulations should be amended to require.
  • OSS be evaluated before the property they serve is transferred or sold, and that the inspection results be submitted to the Health Department, preferably using the electronic system described above.
  • Septic tank pumpers submit records for each OSS tank that is pumped or serviced in Thurston County.
  • A web-based system be developed to allow operations and maintenance (O&M) records to be submitted electronically, transferred to, and managed by AMANDA (our records management database). This allows Health Department staff to more efficiently meet the O&M monitoring and management goals, and is a step toward setting up a system to remind all OSS owners of their system’s O&M needs.
  • Advanced OSS monitoring and maintenance training (like that offered to Henderson Inlet OSS owners) be available for all Thurston County residents.
  • A mechanism to fund current programs and those envisioned by this plan be established.
  • Performance management criteria and indicators be developed and implemented to evaluate the effectiveness of the programs in the plan.

Database Enhancements

This part of the plan will allow the County to:

  • Develop and maintain an inventory of all known septic systems in operation within Thurston County
  • Require septic system be inspected when the properties are sold or transferred unless the system is required to have and is in full compliance with a renewable operational certificate

The plan recommends that the existing AMANDA electronic database be enhanced. AMANDA currently requires sewage system operation and maintenance (O&M) and permit data to be entered manually. This plan recommends that a web-based system be developed to allow O&M records to be submitted electronically and transferred to and managed by AMANDA. This will allow Health Department staff to better meet the O&M monitoring and management goals, and will be a step towards setting up systems to remind all OSS owners of the O&M needs for their system.

Identification of Sensitive Areas

Health Department staff and the advisory committee evaluated land use, shellfish closure data and existing water quality information to identify areas where OSS could pose an increased public health risk or where existing OSS are a significant factor contributing to concerns. They identified nine areas where OSS could pose an increased public health risk:

  • Henderson Watershed Protection Area
  • Nisqually Reach Shellfish Protection Area
  • Eld Inlet
  • Totten Inlet
  • Budd Inlet
  • Summit Lake
  • Southern Thurston County (Scatter Creek Area)
  • McAllister Springs Aquifer Recharge Area (southeast of Lacey)
  • Shana Park/East Olympia Wellhead Areas

After further evaluation, they concluded:

  • The Henderson Inlet Watershed Protection Area and Nisqually Shellfish Protection District should be recognized as Marine Recovery Areas.

  • OSS monitoring, maintenance and education programs for OSS in the Nisqually area should be modeled after the Henderson Watershed Protection Area.
  • The Eld Inlet watershed should be more carefully evaluated to determine if it should be established as Marine Recovery Area.
  • Other areas be evaluated further to determine if OSS are causing or have the potential to create water quality and public health problems.

Operation, Monitoring and Maintenance in Sensitive Areas

The plan recommends that Article IV be amended to:

  • Require a property is evaluated before the property is sold or transferred, and the inspection report submitted to the Health Department
  • Require septic tank pumpers records for each OSS tank that is pumped or serviced in Thurston County

Due to incomplete records, there is also a need to inventory systems in urban areas where sewer service is provided to confirm whether the home or business is served by OSS or sewer.

Marine Recovery Area Strategy

This part of the plan recommends that Article IV be amended to:

  • Create Marine Recovery Areas for Henderson Inlet, Nisqually Reach and other areas as needed.
  • Identify the responsibility and role of the sensitive area committee in Article IV.


The County currently offers advanced OSS training classes to Henderson Watershed Protection Area residents. It is recommended these classes be offered countywide. Currently, certain septic systems require renewable operational certificates. OSS owners are notified when the certificates are about to expire and homeowners must have the system inspected and pumped, if necessary, before they can be renewed. The plan recommends a more formal notification procedure to advise owners of systems that don’t have renewable operational certificates about what they should do to monitor and maintain their system.

Implementation Strategy

This plan recognizes that resources are needed to evaluate the data that is submitted to both identify failing on-site sewage systems and to evaluate the quality of work being done. A mechanism for funding these plan elements needs to be developed. While some funding is being provided through the Washington State Department of Health, additional resources are needed to sustain current programs and those envisioned by this plan.

Based on the current resource limitations in Thurston County, the implementation schedule and work plan have been split into:

  • Activities that can be achieved with currently available funding and resources
  • Activities that require additional resources

This strategy proposes to allocate resources to complete activities that will achieve the greatest results while laying the groundwork that will allow other plan elements to proceed. These include regulation updates needed to implement the OSS inventory elements of this plan, database enhancements to allow O&M records to be submitted on-line, and creation of the sensitive area workgroup. Because funding is assured only through June 2009, this strategy focuses on activities that can be completed within that window of time. Other plan elements are put on a workplan for the future.

From November 2013 to July 2014, Thurston County Environmental Health worked with the On-site Sewage System Management Plan Advisory Committee to update the 2008 Thurston County On-site Sewage System Management Plan. The proposed plan was reviewed by the Thurston County Board of Health and was the subject of community meetings on December 5 in Olympia, December 9 in Rainier, and February 11 at the Griffin School.

The plan under consideration at the Public Hearing has a few revisions from the version discussed at the community meetings. As directed by the Board of Health, the final plan calls for a tiered charge structure that helps assure charges are commensurate with the services provided. Since the plan update was drafted in 2014, additional work has been done to inventory septic systems and we now know there are approximately 53,000 septic systems in the county rather than the earlier estimate of 70,000. And finally, the OSS Management Areas was updated to reflect completion of the On-Site Sewage Management in the Scatter Creek Aquifer Project in 2014. The Thurston County Board of Health adopted Resolution H-3-2014 accepting the recommendations of the citizen advisory committee. The resolution and recommendations are included as Appendix C.

Reasons for the Plan Update

Since 2008 many plan elements have been completed, and new information is available that identify on-site sewage system management issues that need to be addressed. Updating the plan will help guide our program and community actions for the coming years.

The plan amendments will help us:

  • Educate and train OSS owners to monitor and maintain their OSS to identify problems and failures;
  • Identify areas in Thurston County where enhanced monitoring and maintenance programs are warranted;
  • Evaluate our current operation and maintenance (O&M) plan and program, including reporting systems, homeowner O&M practices, professional O&M services, compliance and incentives to determine if they meet state and local goals;
  • Identify areas where enhanced OSS monitoring programs are needed, incorporate changes that address the results of our evaluation as well as the recommendations of stakeholders and policy makers, and establish a strategy to sustain our program in the future;
  • Evaluate funding needs and options for the programs envisioned by the plan.

An OSS management advisory committee whose members represent a wide variety of interests related to on-site sewage management was selected. The committee will review the current OSS management plan and develop recommendations that reflect recent scientific studies, policy recommendations and program deficiencies. The recommendations will be brought to the Thurston County Board of Health for consideration. Advisory committee meetings will begin in November and run through May 2014. A draft plan will be brought to the Board of Health in late Spring or early Summer.

The Thurston County Board of Health held a public hearing to receive testimony on the proposed Updated Onsite Sewage Systems Management Plan. The date, time and place of the hearing was:

Date Location Time

Thurston County Courthouse

2000 Lakeridge Drive SW

Building 1, Room 152

5:30 PM

The final draft of the updated plan is now complete and is available for review. A fact sheet and FAQs are also available.

On-site Sewage System (OSS) Management Plan Committee - Vision Statement
“Our goal is to protect public health in Thurston County by assuring that on-site sewage systems are properly designed, permitted, built, operated, and maintained or abandoned. As we update the OSS Management Plan, we will strive to accomplish this goal by evaluating the effectiveness of current programs and study findings, complying with requirements of state regulations, and meeting the needs of the citizens of Thurston County.”
Meeting Dates, Times, Agendas and Notes
Links to agendas and notes are available by meeting date. Agendas will be available prior to the meeting date. Draft meeting notes will be available after each meeting. Final meeting notes will be posted after they are approved at the following meeting.

All meetings will be held at:

Thurston County Public Health & Social Services

412 Lilly Rd NE, Room 107 A, B and C

Olympia, WA 98506-5132

Please note that meeting agenda, notes and presentation materials are provided in pdf format unless otherwise noted.
Meeting Date Meeting Time Meeting Agenda Meeting Notes Presentations & Materials
11/07/2013 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. Agenda Notes  
12/05/2013 4:00 - 6:00 p.m. Agenda Notes

Septic Systems 101

Onsite Sewage System Operation & Maintenance in Thurston County

01/09/2014 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. Agenda Notes Thurston County Surface Water Quality & Sensitive Areas
02/06/2014 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. Agenda Notes On-site Systems and Groundwater

Wellhead Protection - McAllister and Shana Park
03/13/2014 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. Agenda Notes

Why Households don't maintain septic systems/Why regulations are needed

Marine Recovery Areas and Local Management Areas

OSS Plan Advisory Committee: Part 5 - Education

04/03/2014 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. Agenda Notes

OSS Management Plan Program Funding

Septic Parcel to Neighborhood Relationship

Neighborhood Septic Density Analysis

Groundwater Risk (WHPA and Soils)

Surface Water Risk (Proximity to Water and Soils)

Groundwater Risk Scores

Combined High Risk Neighborhoods

Urban Septic Assessment Project

05/01/2014 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. Meeting Canceled  
06/12/2014 2:30 - 4:30 p.m. Agenda Notes OSS Management Plan Program Funding
07/10/2014 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. Agenda Draft Notes  


Reference Materials:

Contact the Environmental Health department or email us at if you have additional questions. 

Building Development Center (360)-786-5490 Craft 3 Loan  (360)-867-2170
General Questions/Failing System (360)-867-2673 Operation and Maintenance  (360)-867-2626
Septic Help Line (360)-867-2669 Septic, Land Use, and Drinking Water

Enviromental Health Issue Reporting

Enviromental Health Feedback