King County septic fees return

The Department of Health, Seattle-King County asked for a fee on all Onsite Septic Systems (OSS), to be assessed on property tax bills.   “The Turd Tax” proposal was made to the King County Board of Health in June 2016 and quickly tabled after 1500+ angry citizens voiced their opposition at public meetings.

Patty Hayes, Director of the Department of Health,  is asking again.   This time she is pursuing the County Committee on Health, Housing and Human Services.   Her appeal is not substantiated by claims of pollution and public health risk.   Those claims last year were summarily proven wrong….    she lied.

The new proposal is a review of other Washington State counties, currently collecting revenue from OSS owners.   Her argument is that King County has a source of money that remains untapped.

Is that what we are?   A source of money?

COOMWA will report the time and date that the County will review her request.   The contents of her report follows:

Proviso Report

 

 

Public Health – Seattle & King County

Environmental Health Services Division

 

Proviso Response:

Implementation and Funding Strategies for

On-site Sewage System Program

Operation & Maintenance Activities

2017-2018 Biennial Budget Ordinance 18409

Section 100, P1

 

June 30, 2017

 

Patty Hayes

Director, Public Health – Seattle & King County

 

Table of Contents

 

Executive Summary. 1

 

Introduction. 2

 

A.1 Review of OSS oversight activities in comparable jurisdiction. 2

 

A.2 Review of OSS Funding in comparable jurisdictions. 4

 

  1. Feasibility and cost to partner with an independent third party to provide loans or other financial supports to homeowners for OSS maintenance and repair. 6

 

  1. Feasibility and sustainability of funding strategies to support ongoing OSS program activities focused on preventing and addressing OSS failure. 8

 

 

Tables

Table 1. OSS O&M Oversight Activities in Puget Sound Counties 4

Table 2. Comparison of Financing Options for On-site Sewage System Owners. 7

Table 3. Current 2017 Public Health – Seattle & King County On-site Sewage O&M Funding Sources. 8

Table 4. Additional 2018 Public Health – Seattle & King County On-site Sewage O&M Funding Sources 11

 

 

Figures

Figure 1 Current O&M Program Revenue by Source and County, 2013. 5

 

 

Appendices

Appendix A: Additionally Explored Funding Options

Appendix B: King County Loan Project Data

Appendix C: Estimated Costs and Timelines to Accomplish Study Components

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Executive Summary

 

Ordinance 18409 includes a proviso under the Environmental Health section calling for a report to address funding and expanding the On-site Sewage (OSS) Program’s operation and maintenance (O&M) activities.  In response, this report provides a review of the following:

 

  • OSS oversight activities and funding in comparable jurisdictions;
  • The feasibility and cost to partner with an independent third party to provide loans or other financial support to homeowners with OSS maintenance and repair; and
  • The feasibility and sustainability of funding strategies to support ongoing OSS O&M program activities focused on preventing and addressing OSS failure.

 

State law requires OSS O&M programs in the Puget Sound region to work with OSS owners to prevent failing systems and work to abate contamination that puts human health at risk. In Section A, the report summarizes incentive-based and enforcement efforts throughout the Region that respond to this mandate.  Only one jurisdiction reports having sufficient funds to operate programs that meet state requirements. That jurisdiction is Whatcom County which relies on an OSS/Utility Fee.

 

Section B of the report highlights that there are a variety of financing programs for repair, replacement and maintenance of OSS currently available for properties in King County.

 

Public Health – Seattle & King County (PHSKC) reviewed options for feasible and sustainable funding strategies and found that they either did not generate enough revenue or were not viable.  (See Appendix A)  As a result, Section C of the report outlines a phased approach that would improve our understanding of where failing systems are located that are threatening water quality and human health and increase education and outreach efforts.  In particular, PHSKC is partnering with the Department of Natural Resources and Parks (DNRP) to complete the following steps:

 

  • Implement interim educational outreach efforts with industry professionals to encourage proper maintenance of an OSS and thereby reduce operational impacts at South Treatment Plant in Renton from processing septage (i.e., waste pumped from an OSS);
  • Develop a long-term outreach strategy with industry professionals to increase required OSS inspections to provide much needed information about the condition of septic systems and improve collection of inspection fees to support activities to prevent and address failures; and
  • Conduct studies in partnership with DNRP that will identify degraded water quality locations within the County that need increased efforts – including preventing and addressing OSS failures – to achieve water quality improvements.

 

Findings from this work will lead to developing a sustainable, ongoing OSS O&M program proposal. To complete this work, PHSKC will use one-time reserves in the Environmental Health Fund and revenue from increasing the Department of Natural Resources and Parks (DNRP) septage disposal fee.

 

This phased approach will take additional time to achieve the intent of the proviso and compliance with the more comprehensive mandate of state and local O&M and water quality regulations. But it is accomplishing necessary and important steps, in partnership with DNRP, to improve our understanding of the local nexus between degraded water quality and OSS and strengthening education and outreach efforts to prevent OSS failures.

 

Introduction

 

Section 100 of the Metropolitan King County Council 2017-2018 Budget (Ordinance 18409) for the Environmental Health Services Division includes a proviso (P1) calling for a plan for funding and implementing strategies to expand the On-site Sewage (OSS) Program’s operation and maintenance (O&M) activities. The proviso directs that the plan shall include, but not be limited to:

 

  1. Review of OSS oversight activities and funding in comparable jurisdictions;
  2. Feasibility and cost to partner with an independent third party to provide loans or other financial supports to homeowners for OSS maintenance and repair; and
  3. Feasibility and sustainability of funding strategies to support ongoing OSS program activities focused on preventing and addressing OSS failure.

 

The King County Executive must file the plan and a motion required by the proviso by July 1, 2017.

 

The following report responds to these proviso requirements by describing current OSS O&M activities and funding sources in the Puget Sound Counties, detailing the financial supports available to owners of failing OSS, and analyzing options for supporting OSS activities that prevent and address OSS failure.

 

Under state law, Public Health is required by WAC 246-272A to protect the public’s health by minimizing exposure to sewage from on-site sewage systems.  In King County, Public Health accomplishes this via two program components: one focused on permitting new systems and repairs or replacements of existing systems; and a second focused on the operation and maintenance of existing systems by working with homeowners and the OSS industry. The focus of this plan is the O&M program.

 

On-site sewage and operation and maintenance programs in the Puget Sound region are required to work with OSS owners to prevent high-risk OSS from failing and to address and abate contamination from OSS that have been found to be failing. Prevention of OSS failures is achieved through outreach and education to OSS owners and communities, financial incentives for OSS inspection and maintenance, and by enforcement of required OSS O&M inspection requirements for high-risk system types and areas.[1] Abatement of pollution caused by failing OSS systems is achieved through investigating reports of suspected failing systems and surfacing sewage, technical support for OSS owners, and enforcement practices. In addition to prevention and pollution abatement, many Puget Sound counties also perform water quality testing activities to track sources of OSS pollution.

 

A.1 Review of OSS oversight activities in comparable jurisdiction

 

The Clallam County Department of Public Health conducted a 2016 survey on activities performed by OSS O&M programs throughout Puget Sound.  Ten of the twelve Puget Sound counties responded to the survey, identifying a variety of enforcement (punitive) and non-enforcement (non-punitive) strategies used by the counties. Table 1 below shows the results of the survey.

 

All responding Puget Sound counties engage in non-punitive strategies to encourage compliance with OSS O&M requirements. Of the ten responding counties, only King County does not provide financial incentives to homeowners. Financial incentives are used to encourage installing risers to create easier access and maintenance of OSS systems, as well as having OSS inspected as required by state code.  Counties that do offer financial incentives largely pay for them through grant funding.

 

King County is also the only county that does not provide homeowner education classes. Homeowner education classes are used to educate property owners on how to extend the life of their OSS and protect the environment through proper use and maintenance.

 

In eight of the ten (including King County), OSS O&M programs maintain a public information website for OSS owners and maintainers.  In addition to the website, most Puget Sound counties also engage in other forms of outreach. Outreach platforms include mailed postcards and letters, email reminders, social media engagement, education campaigns, and newspaper advertisements. Of all responding counties, King and Whatcom counties are the only counties that reported they do not engage in homeowner outreach activities beyond the maintenance of OSS O&M program websites.

 

Most responding counties are also engaged in enforcement to achieve compliance with OSS O&M requirements for high-risk and failing systems. Only Island and Tacoma-Pierce counties do not levy civil infractions (tickets) or administrative penalties for OSS owners who do not comply with orders to maintain, repair or replace their OSS. Counties that do engage in these practices report that they are effective for high-risk cases, but enforcement practices are costly and can take months or years to resolve cases. For example, King County has pursued enforcement actions for OSS owners who live within the Vashon-Maury Island Marine Recovery Area. Enforcement requiring 676 letters and actions completed between July 2012 and March 2016 culminated in issuance of three court orders. Although King County has achieved some limited success with support from the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, it has come at significant cost.

 

In addition to the oversight strategies in Table 1, most OSS O&M programs also provide technical assistance to OSS owners, investigate complaints of surfacing sewage or failing OSS, review and process time-of-sale reports to ensure OSS on sold properties are functioning properly, and review regular inspection reports as they are received. Many programs are also responsible for certifying OSS professional maintainers (who perform inspections) and pumpers and for providing oversight to ensure professionals are operating according to state and local requirements. Some counties also perform pollution source tracking, either through the OSS O&M Program or other county departments. For example, while pollution source tracking activities in some counties are performed by OSS O&M Program staff, in King County pollution source tracking is performed by the Department of Natural Resources and Parks in some rural and urban areas. Counties are dependent upon reliable data to effectively perform all of these oversight activities.

 

 

Table 1. OSS O&M Oversight Activities in Puget Sound Counties (from 2016 Survey conducted by Clallam County)

OSS O&M Program Oversight Activities
County Non-Enforcement Mechanisms Enforcement Mechanisms
Financial Incentives Homeowner Self-Inspections OSS Homeowner Classes Homeowner Outreach Civil Infractions Administrative Penalties
Clallam Yes

($100)

Yes Yes (in person and online) Website, Newspaper, Radio, Postcards, Letters, Email,  Septic Smart Week Yes

 

Yes
Island Yes, when grant $ is available ($100-$300) Yes Yes (in person and online) Website, Newspaper, Postcards, Letters No No
Jefferson Yes

($100-$150)

Yes Yes (in person and online) Postcards, Letters Yes Yes
Kitsap Yes, when grant $ is available (up to $500) No Yes Website, Postcards, Letters, Email Yes

 

No
Seattle-King No No No Website No Yes
Skagit Yes

(up to $200)

Yes Yes (in person) Newspaper, Social Media, Postcards, Letters, Email

 

No Yes
Snohomish Yes

($100 for inspection; $50/riser)

No Yes (in person and online) Website,

Septic  Savvy Program

Tacoma-Pierce Yes (up to $450) No Annual Homeowner workshop Website, Newspaper, Social Media, Postcards, Letters, Email,  Septic Smart Week No No
Thurston Yes (amount varies) Yes Yes (in person and online) Website, Newspaper, Social Media, Postcards, Letters, Septic Smart Week Yes Yes
Whatcom Yes Yes Yes (in person and online) Website Yes No

 

A.2 Review of OSS Funding in comparable jurisdictions

 

Counties fund local OSS system O&M programs using a variety of sources. Funding sources include federal and state grants, county matching and general funds, fee-for-service charges, and annual OSS or utility fees. Figure 1[2] illustrates the degree to which each of these funding sources supported O&M programs in Puget Sound counties in 2013.

 

Figure 1

 

In response to the Clallam County survey, only Whatcom County (which relies upon an OSS/Utility Fee) reported that funding for O&M activities was sufficient to support program operations and to meet state statutory requirements. However, Whatcom County’s O&M Program does not perform pollution identification source tracking activities. All other counties reported that funding was insufficient to meet statutory requirements.

 

Specific grants and fees used by counties are as follows:

 

Federal Grants

  • National Estuary Program (NEP) Grant: Reserved for one-time costs and not intended to support sustained O&M program activities. Funds can also be used to prevent or mitigate nonpoint source pollution from OSS impacting Puget Sound. In King County, NEP funds supported work to address failing systems in the Vashon-Maury Island MRA until 2016 when they expired. In Clallam County, NEP funds are currently being used to provide rebates to OSS owners who have their systems inspected or install risers.

 

State and Federal Grants

  • Clean Water State Revolving Fund: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency allocates annual capitalization grants to states on a formula basis. Funds can be used to provide loans to counties and cities to, in turn, loan money to land owners to repair or replace their failing OSS. States are required to provide a 20% match.
  • Centennial Clean Water Program: This program is funded by Washington state through a variety of sources, which vary by biennium. Counties and cities can use grant funds to conduct pollution identification activities, including covering operating costs and lending risks for loan programs they offer to OSS owners.
  • State General Fund and Aquatic Lands Enhancement Account: Counties receive state pass-through grants administered by the Department of Health.

 

Local Funds

  • County Grant Match: Some counties dedicate funds to meet matching obligations of awarded state and federal grants. This includes Clallam County which is primarily funded by the Centennial Clean Water Grant Program.
  • County General Funds: Snohomish, Mason and Clallam counties contribute general fund dollars toward administration of local OSS O&M programs. Snohomish County uses general fund resources to support complaint investigations and program overhead costs. Clallam County uses general fund resources for program management, administration, and overhead.

 

Local Fee for Service

Most OSS O&M programs are funded in part by fee-for-service charges. Fees include:

  • O&M report processing fees
  • Property title transfer report processing charges
  • Septage pumping fees
  • Operational certificate charges
  • In addition, Snohomish County Environmental Health charges a 3% technology fee on all OSS permits to support hardware, software and technology contract costs that support O&M activities.

 

Annual OSS Utility Fees

Some local jurisdictions charge annual fees to support ongoing program operations. These fees are collected under:

  • Shellfish protection districts (RCW 90.72)
  • Storm water control (RCW 36.89)
  • Support of O&M programs (RCW 70.05.190)

 

 

B. Feasibility and cost to partner with an independent third party to provide loans or other financial supports to homeowners for OSS maintenance and repair

 

There are a variety of financing programs for repair, replacement and maintenance of OSS currently available for owner-occupied, non-owner occupied and commercial properties throughout King County. The majority of OSS owners qualify for one or more of these financing options, although homeowners with tax liens on their property or with delinquent child support obligations may not qualify. PHSKC does not administer or fund these programs but is responsible for referring OSS owners to appropriate financing options. As of June 1, 2017, the Regional Clean Water Loan Program had partially or fully-funded 19 loans, of which 42% went to low-income borrowers (under 80% county area median income), see Appendix B for more detailed information. For a comparison of existing financing options, see Table 2 on the following page.

 

 

 

 

 

Table 2. Comparison of Financing Options for On-site Sewage System Owners

  Regional Clean Water Loan Program King County Housing Repair Program USDA Rural Housing Service Program
Funded by: Washington State Department of Ecology (serviced by Craft3) Federal Community Development Block Grant and U.S. Housing and Urban Development (serviced by King County Department of Community and Human Services) U.S. Department of Agriculture
Financing Use: Designing, permitting, installing and maintaining OSS and connecting to sewer Housing repair services, including OSS replacement Repair, improve or modernize homes or remove health and safety hazards
Eligibility Criteria: ü  Owner or non-owner occupied

ü  Primary, secondary or rental home

ü  Commercial or residential

One of the following:

ü  On-site sewage system at least 25 years old

ü  System is failing

ü  Owner has been contacted by local or state health officials

ü  Owner has been ordered to fix system

Exclusion Criteria:

No tax liens on property

No unpaid child support obligations

ü  Eligibility determined by gross annual family income

ü  One-year residency

ü  Owner-occupied only

ü  Asset limitations

ü  Sufficient home equity

ü  Homeowners Only

ü  Owner-occupied only

ü  Unable to obtain affordable credit elsewhere

ü  Family income below 50% of area median income

ü  For grants: Be 62 or older and not able to repay a repair loan

Amount: ·         No Maximum

·         Includes $2,000 reserve for future maintenance

·         Loan: Max $25,000

·         Emergency Grants: Max. $6,000

·         Mobile Home Grants: Max. $8,000

·         Loan: Max. $20,000

·         Grant: Max. $7,500

·         Can be combined for up to $27,500

Terms ·         15-year loans

·         1.99%-4.99% interest rate

 

 

 

·         For Low-Income: Interest-only payments, fully-amortized payments or deferred payment

Deferred Payment Loan Program:

·         0% interest

·         No monthly payments (repaid at time of home sale, transfer, refinance)

 

Matching Funds Program:

·         King County provides half of funds up to $25,000 (homeowner matches)

Emergency Grants: Urgent/life-threatening conditions

Mobile Home Grants: Owner does not need to own land

·         20-year loans

·         1% interest rate

C. Feasibility and sustainability of funding strategies to support ongoing OSS program activities focused on preventing and addressing OSS failure.

 

State law requires OSS O&M programs to protect water quality and human health. The minimum elements of such a program should include:

 

  • Understanding of and where the significant threats to water quality and human health from OSS failures are located;
  • Providing education and outreach to homeowners to prevent failure to their septic systems and maintain their systems; and
  • Resolving failing systems through problem-solving and enforcement.

 

The OSS O&M Program faces several challenges to delivering these elements:

 

  • Currently, the program does not have complete data on the location and condition of septic systems in King County and how they might impact water quality and overall environmental and health concerns. At this point in time, PHSKC has identified 85,000 parcels that are developed and not connected to sewer and has limited information about the sewage disposal systems in relation to these parcels.
  • Current funding sources for the OSS Program are limited by the use of funds for the task that they are collected for. For example, the Property Title Transfer Fee is limited to processing the property title transfer reports and related quality control measures such as ensuring the information submitted is accurate, all data are identified and confirmed with realtors.
  • Several potential funding strategies highlighted in Appendix A were reviewed for this report and would be either not sufficient or viable to cover the above key elements.

 

Overview of Current Funding

 

Current funding for 2017-2018 relies entirely on fee-for-service charges paid for by OSS owners.   As shown in Table 3 below, fees are estimated to generate $729,000 in 2017.

 

Table 3. Current 2017 Public Health – Seattle & King County On-site Sewage O&M Funding Sources

Source Description Approved Program Expenditure Activities Estimated 2017 Revenue
$28 Operation & Maintenance Program Fee Collected by OSS maintainers from OSS owners at time of inspection Processing inspection reports and associated tasks $56,000
$184.80 Property Title Transfer Fee Collected by OSS professionals or real estate agents from home sellers before title transfer Processing property title transfer reports and associated tasks $628,000
$40 Time of Sale Fee Collected by title companies from home buyers at time of sale Outreach and education $45,000
TOTAL $729,000

 

It should be noted that over the past several years, Environmental Health had access to federal and state grants that are no longer available.   From 2007-2017 OSS O&M budgets, federal and state grants supported work in Marine Recovery Areas (MRA) including database management improvement activities, establishing the low interest loan program and staffing. These grants amounted to $1,411,193 but have not been renewed.

 

Challenges in Developing a Sustainable OSS Program Focused on Preventing and Addressing OSS Failure

 

Current funding streams are limited in their use and insufficient to support an OSS O&M program that protects water quality and human health.  In addition, potential new funding strategies noted in Appendix A do not generate sufficient revenue and/or are not viable.  As a result, PHSKC will focus on improving local reliable information about magnitude and specificity of the factors contributing to fecal water pollution.  Obtaining this information will create the ability to better target resources to areas of high need.  And, with this information, PHSKC will develop the steps and cost for building a sustainable OSS O&M program focused on preventing and addressing failing systems.  This is the basis for the joint program with Department of Natural Resources and Parks (DNRP) outlined below.

 

Next steps

 

PHSKC in consultation with DNRP will complete a study that will better identify and map areas where septic systems are failing and compare that information with existing and historical water quality testing data to develop assessments on the impacts of those failing septic systems on water quality and human health. The plan also includes a review of successful septic system O&M programs in several nearby counties and engaging with OSS professionals and other community partners to understand barriers for homeowners completing their inspections. From this work, PHSKC will develop recommendations for a sustainably funded OSS O&M program.

 

PHSKC also will continue to support the management of current high risk areas, specifically Quartermaster Harbor, to ensure that the shellfish bed acreage remains open after the historic reopening of the beds from more than 20 years of closure due to fecal contamination.  To support this priority work through 2018, PHSKC will draw upon available one-time fund balance in the Environmental Health Fund.

 

The components of the study to be completed by 2018 include:

 

  1. Compilation of existing DNRP bacterial Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) data. King County has been collecting bacterial data from streams and other natural water systems, and from the County’s storm water conveyance system in select basins through various monitoring and source tracking programs. The purpose of this effort would be to compile existing bacteria data from the source tracing, TMDL program implementation and receiving water monitoring data to determine locations and concentrations of fecal coliform contamination.

 

  1. Document both data and experience of counties with more robust and successful O&M programs (Kitsap, Thurston, Skagit). A common feature of these programs is the adoption of a Pollution Identification and Control (PIC) approach. The PIC approach is able to identify pollution sources with a higher level of specificity using extensive community and partner outreach, field work and laboratory testing. This allows for the potential and justification to propose an appropriate program and seek funding from more sources than OSS owners.

 

  • A number of jurisdictions in the Puget Sound Basin including Kitsap, Thurston and Skagit Counties have developed and implemented funded OSS O&M programs. These programs have successfully restored shellfish beds to harvestable status by identifying and repairing failing OSS. The purpose of this effort will be to review these programs, and the information generated by these programs, to develop approaches for King County’s OSS O&M program. This would include development of the OSS inventory, percentage of failing systems, and methods for finding and addressing failing systems.

 

  1. Compilation and mapping of data on surfacing septage, failed OSS and complaints about failing OSS. Using various data sources will allow mapping in layers, providing a basis for further analyses to identify problem areas. These analyses will be compared and incorporated with the historical information provided by DNRP including the degraded water quality locations to identify areas within the County that need increased efforts to achieve water quality improvements.

 

  1. Implement an outreach and education effort in collaboration with industry professionals to understand the needs of OSS owners and the best methods for service delivery; engage with OSS professionals and other community partners to understand barriers for homeowners completing their inspections. From this work, PHSKC will further develop its database of the location and conditions of OSS and provide recommendations for increasing inspections and fee collection. In addition, PHSKC will also implement educational outreach efforts with industry professionals to encourage proper maintenance of an OSS and thereby reduce operational impacts at wastewater facilities from processing septage (i.e., waste pumped from an OSS).

 

  1. Scope the feasibility and sustainability of funding strategies to support an ongoing program(s) based on the knowledge gained from 1-4.

 

PHSKC and DNRP will produce a final report using this local information and data that will include sustainable funding strategies and work plans to identify and correct the sources of water pollution in King County. The report will also include recommendations for managing OSS using a risk-based approach. Appendix C outlines the estimated costs and timelines to accomplish the study components above.

 

For PHSKC and DNRP to complete this work, DNRP will increase its septage disposal fee by $0.01/gallon. The current septage disposal rate is $0.129/gallon paid by certified septic pumpers when they dispose of waste at the South Treatment Plant in Renton.  In 2016, the surcharge was applied to 27,170,000 gallons and generated $3,503,912 in revenue for DNRP. As an estimate, a $0.01/gallon increase would generate $270,000/year in additional revenue and $337,000 over 15 months. Pumping costs for OSS customers currently average $400-$600 per pumping (source: two pumping companies), so the owner of a 1,000 gallon OSS tank may see a $10 increase per pumping. The impacted partners including industrial professionals will be notified of the septage disposal fee increase prior to implementation.

 

In addition to this increase, PHSKC will draw upon available one-time reserve funds in the Environmental Health Fund.  Table 4 below summarizes the sources and uses of this additional funding through 2018.

 

Table 4. Additional 2018 Public Health – Seattle & King County On-site Sewage O&M Funding Sources and Uses

Source Description Program Expenditure Activities Estimated Revenue through end of 2018
Septage Disposal Fee Increase plus Available OSS One-Time Reserves $0.01/gallon increase to the current septage disposal rate of $0.129/gallon collected at the South Treatment Plant in Renton ·         Interim educational efforts and development of a longer-term outreach strategy with industry professionals on OSS maintenance to reduce operational impacts to wastewater facilities from processing septage and increase OSS inspections

 

·         Data compilation and information gathering to identify degraded water quality locations within the County that need increased efforts to achieve water quality improvements.

 

Septage Disposal Fee:  $337,000 (15 months)

 

One-Time Reserves:  $50,000

Available OSS One-Time Reserves As a standalone fund, EH now tracks fund balance independent of the Public Health Fund and identified limited one-time funds available for OSS purposes. ·         Focus on improving and maintaining water quality at high-risk areas, such as Quartermaster Harbor

 

  $150,000

 

 

 

 

Appendix A: Additionally Explored Funding Strategies

 

Table 1: Additional Funding Strategies Considered

Strategy/Authority Description Impact
Increase $28 OSS Inspection Fee Amount

 

BOH Title 13

 

Currently, there are approximately 2,000 inspection reports and fees submitted per year. The $28 inspection fee has not been increased since 2012. Increasing the fee amount to the current CPI + 1 index rate of $29.98 would generate additional revenue. The revenue generated by the fee increase would be minimal, would not incentivize owners to maintain their systems, and may not exceed the costs of implementing the fee increase.
Increase $40 Time of Sale Fee Amount

 

BOH Title 13

 

The $40 Time of Sale Fee has not been increased since it was enacted in 2002. The fee currently supports education and outreach through the OSS Program website and outreach to professionals. Increased revenue from the fee would allow PHSKC to expand outreach activities to homeowners.

 

The revenue generated by the fee increase would be minimal, politically unpopular, and may not exceed the costs of implementing the fee increase.
New Data Management Surcharge

 

Precedent: Snohomish County

Snohomish County charges a 3% technology fee on all permits for hardware, software and third-party technology contract costs for OSS Program databases. Although database costs are currently funded in King County, the costs of cleaning, maintaining, and analyzing data from OSS Program data systems is unfunded. A similar fee in King County could support data management staffing and moving from paper to electronic records. PHSKC processes approximately 1,500 permits and reviews per year. In 2016, permit fees generated $1,090,814. To generate enough revenue to offset the administrative cost of collection, a surcharge on permits would need to be significant and could place an undue financial burden on OSS owners who are already paying permitting fees.

 

OSS Annual Fee

 

RCW 70.05.190

RCW 70.05.190 authorizes Puget Sound counties to impose an annual fee of up to $40 and be able to contract with the County treasurer to collect such fee in accordance with RCW 84.56.035.  Such a fee would require approval of the Board of Health. A proposal for an annual fee was withdrawn in 2016 after significant community opposition.  With approximately 85,000 systems in King County, the annual fee could generate $2 M – $3 M in revenue depending on the fee and how it is structured.

 


Appendix B: King County Loan Project Data

 


Table 1: Craft 3 Loan Projects by City

Projects City
3 Federal Way
3 Kent
2 Auburn
2 Renton
2 Vashon
1 Covington
1 Des Moines
1 Maple Valley
1 Normandy Park
1 Seattle
1 Vashon Island
1 Woodinville

 

 

 

Table 2: Craft 3 Loan Projects by Council Districts

Projects King County Council District
0 1
0 2
1 3
0 4
4 5
0 6
6 7
4 8
4 9

 

 

 

Table 3: King County Housing Repair Program Projects

Year Projects Number of Seniors
2012 13 12
2013 18 18
2014 11 6
2015 8 5
2016 4 3
2017 3 1

 

 

 

Appendix C: Estimated Costs and Timelines to Accomplish Study Components

 

Table 1: Estimated timeline and costs by component

Step Number Task Lead Agency Budget Funding Source Time Frame
1 Outreach and Education to OSS Professionals

 

Public Health (Consultant) $100K Fund Balance

1c Septage

12 months and ongoing
2 Kitsap, Thurston, & Skagit Counties

(Data & Experience)

 

WLRD Science & Stormwater $50K 1c Septage 9 months
3 Public Health Data on Surfacing Septage and Other Issues (Mapped)

 

PHSKC $20-$37K 1c Septage 6 months
4 Compile existing TMDL/Bacteria Data

 

WLRD Science & Stormwater $50K 1c Septage 9 months
5 Scoping/Costing an Ongoing Program

 

PHSKC & Stormwater $75K 1c Septage 6 months
6 Final Report PHSKC & WLRD Science & Stormwater $75K 1c Septage 3 months

 

[1] High-risk system types include those that use treatment products, have insufficient soil depth, are located on small parcels, and/or are past their life expectancy. High-risk areas currently include those in which water contamination from confirmed OSS failures has been reported to PHSKC. In 2017-2018, PHSKC plans to further develop criteria for classifying high-risk systems and areas.

[2] Washington State Department of Health, “Puget Sound Septic Financing Assessment”, October 15, 2014

Changing OSS Regulations

COOMWA and CAPR (Citizens Alliance for Property Rights) have both been asked to participate in the review of State regulations on Onsite Septic Systems.

This is a major step forward, inviting representatives of OSS owners to comment on regulations!   Of the 25 people who will meet to review regulations (WAC 246-272A posted on this website), 14 are employees of State agencies, 4 are employees of County Departments of Health, 3 are employed by OSS installation/service companies, 1 represents tribal interests who claim OSS are killing their shellfish beds and one represents an environmental organization.  But we will be a vocal minority!

 

The review meeting will be held on Monday, July 24th in Kent, WA.   If you have comments to share or would like to observe, contact Betsy Howe, Founder, COOMWA 253-569-9833.

State OSS Regulations

State law directs the Department of Health to provide over-site for Onsite Septic Systems (OSS).   In turn, the DoH develops the rules and regulations to perform that over-site.   WAC (Washington Administrative Code) 246-272A is a 45-page document of definitions, rules, and requirements.

This is where OSS owners will find the source of government overreach.  The assumption that OSS pollute ground water and contaminate water wells is the foundation of this document.  There is no scientific justification for the assumption, but words like “Potential”, “Could”, and “Might” litter the document.

http://apps.leg.wa.gov/WAC/default.aspx?cite=246-272A