News & Events

HB1338 and SB5503

COOMWA has worked with Washington State Legislators to present Bills in both the House and Senate.
In the 2019-2020 session, we have initiated HB1338 and SB5503, with exactly the same language. You can see the Bills by going to Bill Information. Enter the Bill number and look at Available Documents, then Original Bill.

We are seeking protection for Onsite Sewage System (OSS) owners. More than 1 Million households in Washington are served by Onsite Sewage Systems (OSS) to organically and safely dispose of waste.

EASEMENTS: The WAC (246-272A-0015-7b) provides local jurisdictions “dedicated easement” to any private property with an Onsite Sewer System. We are asking for the courtesy of notification and justification before entering our property.

REPAIR vs REPLACE. Local jurisdictions can demand replacement of systems to upgraded standards at a cost of $30-60,000. A system previously permitted by the local jurisdiction should be allowed to be repaired to originally permitted standards.

DoH Prefers Industry Jobs Over OSS Owners

The following was provided by State Dept. of Health staff for consideration by the OSS Revision Policy Subcommittee.   All topics are presented as “Issue Papers”, outlining the problem,  source of concern,  options, pro’s/con’s,  recommendation,  support information,  etc.    Of particular concern to COOMWA are the “Pro” arguments, expressing how this recommended change would create new work and business opportunities for the OSS industry.   I had no idea that was the role of the DoH … to create jobs for the industry.   And the DoH staff had no idea such a concept would be a “Con” to owners who would have to pay for additional servicing.

 I requested that those “Pro” statements were inappropriate, had no relationship to Public Health and should be removed.   That suggestion was not accepted.   Cindy Alia, lobbyist for CAPR, suggested a “Con” statement should be added to state the recommendation would be an additional cost to OSS owners.   That was accepted.

 We continue to fight for OSS owners through this Revision process…..

 The official Issue Paper from the State Department of Health reads as follows:

On-Site Rule Revision Issue:
Property Transfer Inspections
(Time of sale inspections)


Problem Statement

The rule does not mandate property transfer inspections (PTIs), but does authorize LHJs to require them as part of their OSS management plans. Eleven of the twelve Puget Sound counties require PTIs while only four counties outside the Puget Sound area require these inspections, resulting in 15 out of 35 local health jurisdictions requiring time of property transfer inspections. Without uniform time of sale inspection requirements in place, some lending institutions will set their own requirements that do not necessarily let buyers know exactly what they are purchasing. Property transfer/OSS inspection requirements established in rule would help identify and resolve issues before title transfer, better protecting buyers from inheriting serious and expensive OSS problems.


  • Rule requiring the owner of the OSS to have an inspection of the OSS at the time of property transfer.


Pros Cons
·         Public health and environmental protection by identifying and eliminating failing septic systems.

·         Protects the buyer’s investment by ensuring that the system can safely accommodate their wastewater.

·         Provides an educational opportunity for prospective buyers to know more about the on-site sewage system and to understand their role in the operation and upkeep of a properly functioning system.

·         Help ensure consistent procedures for inspections are used throughout Washington State (a buyer’s inspector always finds the same results as a seller’s inspector), whereby the buyer is protected from inheriting an expensive problem.

·         Provide an opportunity for LHJs to build their inventory database inspection systems, and verify systems are functioning as intended.

·         Helps identify and resolve on-site sewage system issues before title transfer so that the occurrence of unplanned expenses resulting from the need to replace on-site sewage systems after loans have closed are reduced.

·         Additional work for local septic system related businesses.

·         Creation of new business opportunities for registered evaluators from the private sector.

·        Improved confidence of lending institutions based upon direct knowledge of status of on-site sewage systems.

·         Need for collaboration between LHJs, realtors, register of deeds, and third party evaluators and a system for entering, tracking, and transferring information.

·         Requirement of additional LHJ staff time to administer program (and possibly information technology expenses).

·         Increase length and complication of real estate transactions.

·         Requirement for certification protocols for third-party evaluators.

*Adapted with permission from the Marquette County Health Department

Recommendations & Optional Rule Language to Consider

We recommend that there is a state mandatory time of property inspection.


From -0015, (7)(d)

(7) the local health officer shall require the owner of the OSS to:

(d) Have an inspection of the OSS at the time of property transfer by a certified third party property transfer inspector.

(e) Have an inspection of all proprietary products by an inspector certified by the product manufacturer.




Supporting information

Mohamed, R. 2009. Why Households in the United States do not Maintain Their Septic Systems and Why State-Led Regulations are Necessary: Explanations from Public Goods Theory. International Journal of Sustainable Development. 4(2):41-55. (available at

This paper investigates why routine OSS maintenance is not being done by property owners.  Despite educational programs some local and state jurisdictions offer, a majority of OSS are not receiving routine inspections. A time of sale inspection would reveal whether a system is functioning correctly.

National Environmental Services Center. 2011.  Pipeline: Buying or Selling a Home with an Onsite Wastewater System. Summer, 22(1):1-7.  (available at

Farrell-Poe, K., J. Garrett, and D. Long. 2012. What you should know when you’re having your septic system inspected for the Transfer of Ownership Program. UA Extension publication, AZ1554. Tucson, AZ: UA. (available at

EPA Webcasts about Onsite Wastewater Treatment: Property Transfer Inspections of Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems: Lessons Learned From Around the Nation (4/23/14)

National Association of Wastewater Technicians Inspector Certification Program (

  • Qualification requirements prior to receiving certification include:
    • Completing a comprehensive 2-day (12-hour) onsite wastewater treatment systems course covering terminology, treatment, tanks, construction methods, applications, and inspection training
    • Or, demonstrating competence in the field
    • An exam score of 70 or above is required to receive a national inspector certification
    • The national certification is good for two (2) years from the date of the completed certification training session
  • Registration procedures and fees will be managed by the association sponsoring the training or by the NAWT office per their mutual agreement.  If NAWT does not collect the registration fees, the sponsoring Association will be invoiced by NAWT for Fifty Dollars ($50.00) per individual taking the course.
  • This fee will cover the cost of the training manual, handouts, exam, exam grading, certificate, and two years of listing on the NAWT website registry.
  • Exams will be prepared by the NAWT Education Program Coordinator or delegate.  Exams will be updated annually or as the NAWT Education Program Coordinator deems appropriate.
  • Training instructors must remit exams to the Education Program Coordinator within 7 days of the exam date for grading and/or review.
    • The sponsoring Association may grade the exams before remitting them to the Education Program Coordinator for review.
  • The Education Program Coordinator should mail the graded exams to the Executive Director for entry into the NAWT database within thirty (30) days of the exam date.
  • The Executive Director will enter the participant’s exam score, the session training ID, certification expiration date, and their website registry preference into the NAWT database (FileMaker Pro 10).
    • Each training session will be given a different ID number, which will include the training session date and location (city and state).

OSS Failure Rates Inflated

The following is a report that is used to substantiate the high failure rate and public health risk caused by Onsite Sewage Systems (OSS).   However, the survey covers several years and the number of years vary.   Allowing for ANNUAL  “Failure” rates, the reality is between 2.3 and 8.9%.   This data is used to establish State Rules regarding residential OSS …. and yet it is very, very wrong!           Read on:



What are Septic System Failure Rates, and how are They Used in Thurston County?
Some community members have expressed concerns about how county staff and the Thurston County On-site Sewage System Management Plan Update describe and discuss septic system failures and failure rates. Thurston County wants to be responsive to our community’s concerns,
and drafted this document to help address this issue.

Table 1: Failure Rates Found During Sanitary Surveys in Thurston County

Survey Area and (year) Number of Systems Evaluated Number of Failing Systems Failure Rate
Eld Inlet (1990-96) 564 93 16%
Eld Inlet (2012-14) 102 17 17
Henderson Inlet (1996-99) 58 8 14
Nisqually Reach (1994-96) 123 32 26
Nisqually Reach (1996-99) 42 12 29
Summit Lake (1992-97) 330 57 17

Prepared by Thurston County Public Health and Social Services
Point of Contact: Art Starry, Environmental Health Division Director
Phone: (360) 867-2587
April 11, 2017

COOMWA Name Change

Citizens Opposed to OSS Management Washington (COOMWA) was founded in June, 2016 to oppose King County fees and rules concerning their oversight of Onsite Sewage Systems (OSS) … septic systems.

Since that time, our citizen outcry has had a huge impact.   A list of our accomplishments include:

  • Tabling of the King County fee recommendation
  • Reducing King County’s “required” monitoring of OSS to “recommended”
  • Assuring As-built information is available on a timely basis at Point-of-Sale
  • De-railing more egregious King County rules regarding OSS Management and Operations Plans
  • Making State and County governments aware of opposition to erroneous testing, false accusations of pollution, increased fees, mandatory maintenance contracts, and required upgrades.

We have learned that the problems lie in Washington State Administrative Codes.   That is where we will focus our efforts.   We have forced the State Department of Health to open and review their “Rules” related to septic systems.   This will be a long process.   In the meantime, we fully intend to draft new legislation to relieve OSS owners of government over-reach.

To reflect the shift of our efforts, we are re-naming our organization …   we are now COOMWA!  Yes, the same name, but with a more positive twist.    As of May 15th, our name will stand for Citizens OPTIMIZING OSS Management Washington.   We will work with all levels of government to OPTIMIZE rules and regulations for the owners.

Thank you for your interest and support.    We still have a website at and you can reach us at   You will be hearing more from COOMWA!