Officials working toward cleaner Hood Canal waters

Using money allocated by the state, homeowners and small business owners in Kitsap County bordering the Hood Canal will undergo a septic system rehaul to reduce pollutants from entering the water.

Part of $113 million in grants and loans, the Washington Department of Ecology (WDE) is sending various cities, counties and tribes money to improve and protect Puget Sound waters. Kitsap County will receive $3 million to assist homeowners in repairing on-site sewage systems along the Hood Canal. This money will be paired with WDE’s $4.2 million program to repair, replace and improve septic systems along Puget Sound.

Unwanted nutrients due to malfunctioning septic systems fuel algae growth that create low levels of oxygen in the water suffocating fish and other sea life. These nutrients also are a contributor to growing dead zones in the Hood Canal. “Puget Sound is in trouble but we know by working together we can turn things around,” said Governor Chris Gregoire in a news release. “Many of our neighbors on the Sound want to do the right thing and replace or repair their aging septic systems, but the cost is a major hurdle.”

Shellfish growers, one of Washington’s oldest industries, also are affected by the lack in oxygen dead zones along the Hood Canal and Puget Sound. The Washington State Department of Health currently estimates that there are about 500,000 on-site septic systems with 5 percent of those estimated to be failing.

“We need clean air, water and soil, and healthy people and communities to ensure our high quality of life and help keep our economy strong,” Gregoire said. “These grants and loans support the state, local and tribal governments that are working together to protect our waters and our people, communities and work places.”

Although the average cost to fix or repair septic systems is fairly low, some residents can spend up to $25,000 to improve or repair their existing systems. With the WDE’s low-interest loans and grants to local and tribal governments, a multitude of residents will be able to update their systems, cutting down on the pollution entering the water.

“With this support,” Gregoire added, “now they will be able to help eliminate a significant source of water pollution.”

The Hood Canal Coordinating Council includes Jefferson, Kitsap and Mason counties along with Port Gamble S’Klallam and Skokomish Indian Tribes. Kitsap County has contracted with Shorebank Enterprises Cascadia, a non-profit organization, to administer the low-interest loan program.

Terry Hull, Hood Canal septic loan program manager for Shorebank Cascadia Enterprises said the organization makes low interest loans available to homeowners and businesses based on their income.

“We have a triple bottom-line goal,” Hull said. “Doing what we can to improve water quality, helping people build asset value for their homes and properties and supporting local economics.”

With more than 50 applications from homeowners and businesses already, Hull said the construction of 11 new systems has already been completed.

“There’s no question that improper functioning of septic or on-site systems contribute to contaminating the Canal,” Hull added. “Fixing those systems ... is important to the shellfish harvesting and walking on the beaches ...”

Along with the efforts to improve the waters of Hood Canal, the residents and small businesses of the Seabeck Landing complex had their sewage system repaired and updated in June.

Two of the largest obstacles of this project were the continual selling and purchase of the land in the last 15 years as well as the funding needed.

Easements from two private property owners were required to run a sewage transport line nearly a half-mile to a drain field area. Specialized sewage treatment units, pumps and piping were required to meet site demands and constraints. Now, most businesses along the Seabeck waterfront have a code-conforming septic system and no water restrictions. The remainder of the businesses, which are not on the new septic system, will have a code-conforming system when the Seabeck Marina is renovated in the future.

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