DIY Septic Certifications on the Way for KP Homeowners

The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department plans to help homeowners.

Lakebay resident Bob Wilkins wants to do something that most people find repulsive, and he wants other people to be able to do it too. He wants to be able to inspect his own sewer system. Why and how would he want to do that?

Back in 2000, Washington State passed a law codifying septic tank inspection schedules and standard guidelines for septic tank safety. Revised Code of Washington Law 43.20.065 states: “The Legislature believes that properly functioning on-site wastewater systems are an important component of the State’s wastewater treatment infrastructure. To ensure that on-site wastewater systems remain an economically accessible wastewater treatment option for a broad portion of the State's population, it is the intent of the Legislature to ensure that only requirements that are reasonable, appropriately tailored, and necessary for installation, operation, apply , the maintenance or repair of on-site wastewater systems apply.”

The Department of Health has adopted this legislation by reference. The TPCHD's septic tank regulations state that the purpose of septic tank regulation is to eliminate or minimize the public's potential exposure to wastewater from on-site septic systems and to eliminate or minimize adverse public health impacts associated with discharges from septic systems Ground and surface water may have a place.

To implement these public health intentions, state law and local health departments require septic inspections every one to three years, depending on the type of system involved. This requirement typically requires a property owner to retain the services of a septic tank inspection and pumping company. Waterfront homes may require an annual inspection. Many other single-family homes that are not connected to the sewer system are inspected every three years.

Pierce County has been sending letters to homeowners advising them of inspection requirements, offering information about septic service providers and offering them the opportunity for financial assistance. “As more new homes are built and the population increases, some people may receive notifications that were not previously received. Increased population density increases the “It has to have an adequate septic tank,” said Robert Suggs, environmental health Pierce County Specialist. The inspection schedules will be rolled out at different times throughout the county.

Inspection fees vary widely, ranging from about $350 to $700.

This is the point of contention for Bob Wilkins. “A single person with a three-bedroom house does not need to be checked every three years. My last pumping session took 12 years. I would like the opportunity to take a course to obtain my own certification (for septic inspection). The course should be an option for those who want it.”

Kitsap County offers an 8-hour course followed by a year-long probationary period. There is also a one-time fee of $445, an annual renewal fee of $145, and a registration fee of $30.

In contrast, Thurston County offers an 8-hour class with classroom time and field work. Certifications are limited to four specific types of wastewater treatment plants, including conventional gravity, hill, pressure distribution and Glendon biofilters. Classes are offered twice a month.

“One of the things we like is the field portion of the training,” said Jane Mountjoy-Venning of the Thurston County Health Department. “We have a wastewater treatment park where people can see and understand a wastewater treatment system. It is located behind the Health Department building in Olympia and is open to everyone.”

Thurston County is currently able to offer free certificates through the Washington State Department of Health Money available to each county to use for public health concerns. Jane said that “several thousand people have been certified over the years.” Certificates can be revoked if the owner's system does not meet the criteria.

Pierce County Councilwoman Robyn Denson said, “I have heard from several Key Peninsula residents about whether the health department could start a self-inspection program to allow homeowners to comply with state inspection laws every three years at a cheaper rate.”

“Our Water Quality and Protection Program is working to develop a septic self-inspection training and inspection program that protects public health and is consistent with our code,” Kenny Via said in a statement to TPCHD. “We are still in the early stages of development. Our important considerations include criteria for conducting a self-audit, funding, data entry and proper tracking. We know that many people in the community are interested in us implementing such a program. We will continue to share more as we continue to develop the program.”

“Nothing lasts forever, everything needs maintenance. The cheapest system is the one you have right now,” he said.

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