2.1.a: Increase percentage of inspections that are current for on-site sewage systems in marine recovery areas and other specially designated areas from 37% to 60% by 2020

Marine Recovery Areas (MRAs) are areas next to Puget Sound with pollution problems linked to on-site sewage systems (septic systems). Local health jurisdictions have enhanced programs for these areas to protect public health and Puget Sound. These programs include:

  • Inventory and inspection of all septic systems.
  • Finding and fixing failing septic systems.
  • Developing and maintaining local septic data systems capable of sharing compatible data with the state.

The map shows MRAs and other designated sensitive areas within Puget Sound.

Why is this a Priority?

It is vital that we have safe water for drinking, swimming, shellfish harvesting and other uses within Puget Sound. Septic systems that aren’t working properly are one source of pollution. Good management of septic systems will likely reduce pollution.

How are we doing?

The program is making progress. Septic system inspections were not required until 2005. Local health jurisdictions began this work in 2008.

We have awarded over $7 million in federal funds to support local septic management programs that have:

  • Estimated over 600,000 septic systems in Puget Sound, nearly 85,000 in Marine Recovery Areas and other specially designated areas.
  • Repaired over 1200 failing septic systems in Marine Recovery Areas.
  • Increased the number of septic systems current with inspections by nearly 22,000.
  • Identified more systems while conducting area inventories.

What are we working on?

We have several activities we are working on or have completed through the Puget Sound Action Agenda. Much of this work is supported by the National Estuary Fund to increase investments in Puget Sound counties for inspections. This work includes:

  • Implemented a unified, regional loan program to help system owners repair and replace broken systems.
  • Evaluated the effectiveness of current rules for septic systems and provided recommendations to the State Board of Health.
  • Began the process of revising the current rules for septic systems.
  • Working with local partners to identify best practices, develop common performance standards, and identify mechanisms to provide sustainable funding for work done by local health jurisdictions in MRAs.

How can you help?

Action Plan: