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Future of Island Septic Systems Discussed at VMICC

Monday night, May 21, attendees at the Vashon Maury Island Community Council meeting heard the results of the actions taken since the passage of the Marine Recovery Area Septic Waiver motion passed at the March 19 meeting. Meanwhile, rumble strip opponents grumbled at King County Dept. of Transportation officials at Chautauqua School across the parking lot. DOT representatives and People for Puget Sound also spoke at the meeting.

Originally, more than a hundred waterfront properties in Marine Recovery Areas on Vashon Island were contracted by King County with the requirement of having their septic systems inspected (a process that determines if the septic system is leaking or flushing into the Sound). They set a deadline of July 1 at which time a daily fee of $25 would be imposed for those who have not had the required inspections.

A motion was passed by VMICC in March which was sent to King County Executive Dow Constantine, Waste Water Manager Larry Fay, and Larry Stockton, Ground Water Protection Manager, as well as others. The motion requested "a temporary waiver for compliance with the deadline to allow research on financial assistance to property owners that need to repair or replace their on-site septic system."

Since that time, Carl Sells, VMICC vice president, has contacted officials throughout the state and has discovered that of the 12 counties that border Puget Sound, King County is the only one that has not accessed the state funds and federal funds available to help homeowners with septic repairs and replacement. All six Marine Recovery Areas are in King County. Jefferson and Thurston Counties began their financial aid programs in 1992 and the following year Island County began.

King County officials developed the KC Septic System Management Plan in July 2007 in which they agreed to find financial aid to septic system owners impacted by the MRA. However, no financial assistance has been provided. There are 58 home owners who have not responded to the King County demand of inspection.

There appears to be $350,000 available now for King County and possibly another $700,000 available in the future for this cleanup, although the EPA has delayed the availability of the funds until a more precise plan of tracking the money and how it is used has been produced. Sells has suggested to Fay and Stockton that some of the money be used as grants to refund the cost of the initial required inspection so that Vashon Island can see the good faith effort on the part of government to work together with property owners, a suggestion that came out of the meeting last week with government officials and three islanders.

Last week on May 17, Dr. Ngozi Oleru, director of the Environmental Health Services Division, Public Health Seattle/King County came to Vashon Island to discuss the need for "King County’s assistance in the Marine Recovery Area (MRA) Onsite Septic inspection and repair program." Oleru, Fay, Stockton, Sells, Community Service Manager Alan Painter, VMICC President Tim Johnson, Greentech President Tag Gornall, and Bong Sto.Domingo, community service representative attended.