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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, October 7, 2011
Art Starry, Environmental Health Division Director, 360-867-2587
Susan Davis, Environmental Health Supervisor, 360-867-2643

Public Hearing on Nisqually Reach Septic System Set for October 13

OLYMPIA - Thurston County boards of Health and County Commissioners will conduct a public hearing on proposed ordinances regarding the Nisqually Reach Shellfish Protection District on Thursday, October 13, at 6:30 p.m. at the County Fairgrounds, Expo Center, 3054 Carpenter Road. The hearing is an opportunity for the public to testify on both ordinances. The ordinances would amend the Thurston County Sanitary Code to designate a marine recovery area in the Nisqually Reach watershed, establish additional operation and maintenance requirements for on-site sewage systems, and establish a funding mechanism for the program. The program, which would affect the Nisqually Reach watershed, is part of an on-going effort to protect water quality in the Reach and maintain shellfish harvesting areas that have been periodically closed due to pollution.

The county's Environmental Health Director Art Starry says the proposal is aimed at eliminating a significant source of pollution in the Reach. "Studies show that some pollution comes from what we call non-point sources, that is, unknown points of origin. Work has demonstrated that human waste from failing septic systems is a contributing factor. The citizens' advisory committee working on this issue has recommended an operations and maintenance program (O and M) for septic systems in the Nisqually Reach watershed." The purpose of the program is to ensure that systems are properly maintained to prevent premature failures, and to regularly evaluate those systems at highest risk of contaminating surface water so that problems can be promptly identified and corrected.

The O and M program would divide septic system into "low" and "high" risk categories, depending on various factors. Both low-risk and high-risk systems within the watershed would be required to have current operational certificates, but the frequency and type of inspections would differ.

A pilot septic systems operations and maintenance program has been underway in the Henderson Watershed Protection Area since January 2007. Nearly 2,000 watershed residents have been certified to do their own septic system inspections. Water quality in Henderson Inlet has improved significantly; shellfish growing areas where harvest has been restricted due to bacterial pollution since the early 1970s have been opened.

Starry urges county residents to attend the hearing. "We are especially interested in hearing from those who live in the watershed area," he says.

Copies of the proposed ordinances are available at the Environmental Health, Building 1, Thurston County Courthouse, 2000 Lakeridge Drive, Olympia, WA 98502 or at www.co.thurston.wa.us/health/ehrp/nisqually.html Those who cannot attend the hearing can leave an email comment on the site. Information is also available at 867-2626.


County Commissioners:

Carolina Mejia
District 1

Gary Edwards
District 2

Tye Menser
District 3