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County sends notices of violation to 133 waterfront homeowners

King County officials have sent notices of violation to 133 waterfront homeowners noting they’ve failed to meet a county deadline to get their septic systems inspected.

The letters are the latest step in the county’s three-year effort to get 262 homeowners in Vashon’s six marine recovery areas to comply with new state rules around septic systems in areas deemed critical to Puget Sound’s health.

The notices of violation follow a letter that was sent in December stating homeowners had until Feb. 3 to meet the county’s deadline. If homeowners fail to comply with the violation notices, they could face civil penalties, said Larry Fay, the community environmental health section manager for Public Health - Seattle & King County.

“They still have time to comply, although the window is closing,” he said.

The county has struggled to get Islanders to comply with the rules, in part because of the high costs of replacing failing septic systems and the difficulty of finding systems that work on small parcels like those that line Vashon’s waterfront. County officials have held several meetings, gone door to door and sent out several reminders and notices, Fay said.

“I feel like we’ve done three years of almost quarterly mailings that are friendly in tone. I still want to be friendly, but I’ve got deadlines,” Fay said.

At the same time, he added, he’s encouraged by the response the county has gotten in the last couple of months. A year ago, only about 20 percent of those with properties within the recovery area had begun the process of complying with county rules. Now, nearly 50 percent have had their septics inspected and, if needed, repaired or replaced.

Some Islanders, however, blame the county for the low compliance rate, noting that in other parts of the Puget Sound region, public officials have secured low-interest loans for residents to use to upgrade their systems. At last week’s Vashon-Maury Island Community Council meeting, Robert Keeler, who chairs the council’s land-use committee, presented a motion requesting the county to provide information about potential sources of financing.

Fay agreed that the lack of funding has been a problem. It appears, he added, that the county will be able to secure about $350,000 from the state to start a revolving loan fund.

“I’m pretty certain we’ll be able to get something set up,” he said.

 

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