New septic systems to be displayed at second annual Sludgefest

New septic system designs that could work on the small lots that line Vashon’s waterfront will be on display at a daylong gathering this weekend geared towards helping Islanders find solutions to their vexing septic problems.

Sludgefest 2, Vashon’s sec-

ond septic system vendor fair, will give Islanders an opportunity to take a look at the latest and best in septic-system technology — an urgent issue on Vashon, where Quartermaster Har-bor has been found to have high levels of nitrates and other ecological problems thought to be caused by failing septic systems.

King County recently declared much of the western shoreline of outer Quartermaster a marine recovery area, a state-mandated designation. Under a law passed in 2007, the 12 counties bordering Puget Sound were to make such designations in those areas closed to shellfish harvesting due to water pollution and begin taking measurable steps to address the problem within five years.

According to Larry Stockton, groundwater protection manager for the county’s Department of Natural Resources and Parks, Sludgefest — because it will demonstrate some breakthrough technologies that landowners can install on what he called “constrained sites” — will help the county in its efforts to clean up Quartermaster.

“There are a whole bunch of opportunities that most folks aren’t aware of and that give them a great deal of flexibility,” he said.

Susan Tobin, an Islander and member of the Vashon-Maury Island Community Council’s Septic Solutions Committee, said she’s excited about some of the technologies that now exist and the opportunities they afford Islanders.

“It seems like finally the technology is catching up. I’m really encouraged by this,” she said.

Some Islanders who live along Quartermaster have resisted working with the county on installing new septic systems, fearing exorbitant costs and a cumbersome permitting process. Tobin said she hopes Islanders will use this opportunity to take a look at new technologies that have won county approval.

“The input we’ve had from the community is that people are concerned about how much it will cost and how to choose the right technology,” she said. “Since this is a vendor fair, this is a place for people to come and see what’s now available.”

Of particular interest is a new peat-filter system, a non-mechanized design that cleans effluent as it passes through a large swath of compacted peat; the filter, when it’s exhausted, can be recycled, Stockton said. A composting toilet that Stockton said dramatically reduces the size of the drainfield a landowner needs will also be on display.

Tobin’s committee, meanwhile, will hand out free red-dye tests for people to use in their systems to see whether or not they’re failing.

“We hope it will help people get a sense of ownership over their own system and start understanding how it’s working,” she said.

Sludgefest 2 will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 8, at Chautauqua Elementary School.

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