What is the problem?
Henderson Inlet and its tributaries are contaminated with fecal coliform bacteria, which is taking its toll on the quality of water in
the Inlet. As a result, the state Department of Health has prohibited or conditionally closed* shellfish harvesting on 520+ acres in Henderson Inlet. The
state Department of Ecology has also placed Henderson Inlet and four of its tributaries, including Woodland and Woodard creeks, on the list of impaired water bodies of Washington State.
*One-half inch of rain closes commercial shellfish harvesting for five days in Henderson Inlet.
Who came up with this O&M program?
A Citizen Advisory Committee was convened in December 2003 to help Thurston County consider the problem of pollution from septic systems and to help develop
a septic system operation and maintenance program to address the problem. In addition, the Henderson Shellfish Protection District stakeholders evaluated the
watershed’s fecal coliform problem and made septic systems their highest priority.
After several years of public input, the Advisory Committee’s recommendations were presented to the Thurston County Board of Health and adopted on November
21, 2005, as the Henderson Watershed Protection Area Septic System Operation and Maintenance Program. The program went into effect on January 1, 2007.
Is this a new idea?
A county-wide operation and maintenance program for community septic systems and certain types of systems has been in place for more than 15 years.
As early as the 1980’s, watershed plans for Totten, Eld, Budd/Deschutes, and Henderson, prepared with input and support of citizens, all included
recommendations for septic system operation and maintenance programs. The concept of such a program was first recommended as part of a wastewater
facilities plan for the Cooper Point area in 1999, but the plan was not implemented.
This new program adopted for the Henderson watershed provides added water quality protection by ensuring that all septic systems within the Henderson
Watershed Protection Area are routinely maintained and inspected.
How does this program help?
The purpose of this program is to ensure that all septic system owners are maintaining and inspecting their septic systems to prevent premature failures.
This program will help by regularly evaluating all septic systems within the program area, so that problems can be identified as soon as possible and repairs made.
How was the boundary chosen?
The intent of this program is to reduce the fecal contamination that is responsible for the shellfish harvesting downgrades, so the boundary was
established for the area most likely to be influencing the bacteria pollution in the Inlet.
After reviewing studies and available information, it was determined that septic systems in the southern part of the
Henderson Shellfish Protection Area ("the lakes") are not likely to be direct contributors. The time that
it would take for water to move through the series of lakes and get to Woodland Creek wouldn’t allow bacteria to survive. This area was subsequently removed from the O&M program.
How many properties are involved?
When does the program take effect?
After several years of public input, the program was adopted on November 21, 2005, and went into effect on January 1, 2007.
How long will this program last?
At the end of five years the program will be evaluated to see how it's working. The program will end in ten years (December 31, 2016) unless renewed by the County Board of Health.