County pushes final group of homeowners in marine recovery areas to repair failing septics

Around 30 waterfront homeowners could face fines of up to $25 a day if they don’t get their septic systems inspected by July 1, according to King County officials.

The county has to meet a July 1 deadline set by the state Legislature six years ago, when the county — at the state’s behest — established six “marine recovery areas” (or MRAs) on Vashon. The goal of the program is to ensure that septic systems along ecologically rich stretches of shoreline are in good working order, enabling the state to restore shellfish beds currently closed to harvests due to contamination.

The county has struggled to garner compliance on Vashon, where several property owners have homes on tiny lots perched right above Puget Sound. In the last several months, however, the majority of the 263 homeowners in the MRAs have responded, said Larry Fay, a manager for Public Health - Seattle & King County.

To date, he said, 196 homes — or 75 percent of them — are in full compliance, and another 31 homeowners, or 12 percent, are in the process of getting designs approved or new systems installed. Another 36 homeowners, or 14 percent, have not responded, he said.

“There’s a lot of good news,” Fay said. “To now be at 85 percent at some level of compliances is really, really encouraging.”

For the most part, the 196 homes in compliance are owned by people who got their septic systems inspected and found they did not need to be repaired, Fay said. The fact that so many homes did not have failing systems, he added, “meant the magnitude of the problem is not as great as we’d expected.”

But those 31 homeowners now in the process of getting new systems approved or installed as well as the 36 homeowners who have yet to respond own septic systems that appear to be polluting the Sound, he said.

“When we have these remaining systems repaired, I can say, ‘Yes, Puget Sound will be healthier,’” he said.

But some Island activists remain frustrated that the county still hasn’t secured state or federal grants to help homeowners with the high costs of septic design and repair.

“We’re trying to make sure the county is making every good-faith effort to get some funding,” Tim Johnson, head of the Vashon-Maury Island Community Council, said.


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