Environmental Health
Septic Systems
On-Site Sewage Management Plan
Thurston County OSS Management Plan Update  

On-Site Sewage System Management Plan Update Process

From November 2013 to July 2014, Thurston County Environmental Health worked with the On-site Sewage System Management Plan Advisory Committee to update the 2008 Thurston County On-site Sewage System Management Plan. The proposed plan was reviewed by the Thurston County Board of Health and was the subject of community meetings on December 5 in Olympia, December 9 in Rainier, and February 11 at the Griffin School.

The plan under consideration at the Public Hearing has a few revisions from the version discussed at the community meetings. As directed by the Board of Health, the final plan calls for a tiered charge structure that helps assure charges are commensurate with the services provided. Since the plan update was drafted in 2014, additional work has been done to inventory septic systems and we now know there are approximately 53,000 septic systems in the county rather than the earlier estimate of 70,000. And finally, the OSS Management Areas was updated to reflect completion of the On-Site Sewage Management in the Scatter Creek Aquifer Project in 2014. The Thurston County Board of Health adopted Resolution H-3-2014 accepting the recommendations of the citizen advisory committee. The resolution and recommendations are included as Appendix C.

Public Hearing

The Thurston County Board of Health held a public hearing to receive testimony on the proposed Updated OSS Management Plan. The date, time and place of the hearing was:

Tuesday, June 14th at 5:30 PM
Thurston County Courthouse
2000 Lakeridge Drive SW
Building 1, Room 152

The final draft of the updated plan is now complete and is available for review. A fact sheet and FAQs are also available.

Project Background

The Thurston County On-site Sewage System Management Plan was developed in response to RCW 70.118A and WAC 246-272A-0015. These state laws required Thurston County to develop a written plan that specified how we would:

  • Progressively develop and maintain an inventory of all known OSS in operation within Thurston County.
  • Identify areas where OSS could pose an increased public health risk, or contribute to degraded water quality.
  • Identify operation, maintenance and monitoring requirements commensurate with the risks posed by OSS within sensitive areas.
  • Enforce OSS owner permit application, operation, monitoring, maintenance, and failure repair requirements.
  • Develop a methodology for establishing Marine Recovery Areas (MRAs).
  • Develop a database for keeping records associated with MRAs.
  • Inventory all OSS in MRAs by 2012 and ensure all failing systems are serviced.
  • Educate homeowners regarding their responsibilities for the operation and maintenance of their OSS.
  • Remind and encourage homeowners to complete their operation and maintenance inspections.

In November 2006, an advisory committee was convened to develop recommendations for the Countyís on-site sewage system management plan and the revision of Article IV of the Thurston County Sanitary Code (on-site sewage system regulations). The committee met 10 times from November 2006 to September 2007. Their recommendations are the backbone of this plan.

The plan recommends:

  • Henderson Inlet and Nisqually Reach be recognized as Marine Recovery Areas (MRAs).
  • Eld Inlet should be considered as MRA.
  • Thurston County should evaluate other areas to determine if they should be MRAs or sensitive areas.
  • Thurston County on-site sewage system (OSS) regulations should be amended to require
    • OSS be evaluated before the property they serve is transferred or sold, and that the inspection results be submitted to the Health Department, preferably using the electronic system described above

    • Septic tank pumpers submit records for each OSS tank that is pumped or serviced in Thurston County.
  • A web-based system be developed to allow operations and maintenance (O&M) records to be submitted electronically, transferred to, and managed by AMANDA (our records management database). This allows Health Department staff to more efficiently meet the O&M monitoring and management goals, and is a step toward setting up a system to remind all OSS owners of their systemís O&M needs.
  • Advanced OSS monitoring and maintenance training (like that offered to Henderson Inlet OSS owners) be available for all Thurston County residents.
  • A mechanism to fund current programs and those envisioned by this plan be established.
  • Performance management criteria and indicators be developed and implemented to evaluate the effectiveness of the programs in the plan.

Find more information about the plan and its development.

Reasons for the Plan Update

Since 2008 many plan elements have been completed, and new information is available that identify on-site sewage system management issues that need to be addressed. Updating the plan will help guide our program and community actions for the coming years.

The plan amendments will help us:

  • Educate and train OSS owners to monitor and maintain their OSS to identify problems and failures;
  • Identify areas in Thurston County where enhanced monitoring and maintenance programs are warranted;
  • Evaluate our current operation and maintenance (O&M) plan and program, including reporting systems, homeowner O&M practices, professional O&M services, compliance and incentives to determine if they meet state and local goals;
  • Identify areas where enhanced OSS monitoring programs are needed, incorporate changes that address the results of our evaluation as well as the recommendations of stakeholders and policy makers, and establish a strategy to sustain our program in the future;
  • Evaluate funding needs and options for the programs envisioned by the plan.

An OSS management advisory committee whose members represent a wide variety of interests related to on-site sewage management was selected. The committee will review the current OSS management plan and develop recommendations that reflect recent scientific studies, policy recommendations and program deficiencies. The recommendations will be brought to the Thurston County Board of Health for consideration. Advisory committee meetings will begin in November and run through May 2014. A draft plan will be brought to the Board of Health in late Spring or early Summer.

Meeting agendas and materials are available on this website. The meetings are open to the public and all interested people are invited to attend.

If you have questions, comments or recommendations about the plan or this process, please contact our project coordinator or send an email.

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This page last updated: 01/28/22