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What will it take to make do with septic systems?

“If it’s not broken, why fix it” is the message a committee studying waster water management is putting out in Clinton.

At a meeting Sept. 15, the six-member body, appointed by the board of commissioners of the Clinton Water District looked at alternatives to developing a centralized sewer facility in Clinton.

Following completion of Clinton’s comprehensive sewer plan in 2003, Clinton Water District commissioners sought volunteers for the citizen’s committee to study the ways to manage wastewater in the Clinton Water District. The committee presented its final report to commissioners at last week’s meeting.

“We hope the report is a catalyst for further discussion,” said Jack Lynch, chairman of the Wastewater Management Task Force.

Lynch, who is Langley’s former planner, said his group hoped the water district’s commissioners would initiate further discussion about the ideas and recommendations from his group.

The committee’s top recommendation is to create an on-site management program of existing septic systems. To manage on-site systems, septic system information would be kept in a data base. Inspections would occur on a regular basis depending on the types of septic systems in place.

Committee suggestions also included clustering de-centralized smaller systems with a shared drainfield for several homes.

“Septic systems can be a long- term resource by using on-site management procedures,” Lynch said. “We feel it is in the best interests of the community for the water district to play an active part in wastewater management to protect the quality of potable water.”

Gail Madden, another member of the committee told the commissioners “wastewater affects the water you provide us.”

“It’s time to think out of the small box,” Madden said.

At present, the water district does not have the authority to manage a septic maintenance program. To get that authority, the district would have to sign onto an interlocal agreement with Island County.

There are real-world examples of the septic management strategy proposed by the committee. Rural Kitsap county uses on-site septic management in its residential areas.

Lynch said the economics of centralized septic management are undeniable. He said cost to a home owner to hook into a sewer system can be thousands of dollars. Maintaining a septic system can cost as little as $100 a year.

Water district commissioner Joan Nelson assured the committee that its report would not be shelved and forgotten, something that has happened in the past. In the 1990s, the Island County Health Department contracted with an engineering firm to develop a wastewater plan which was not completed. A second comprehensive sewer plan was completed and adopted in 2003 by the district and approved by the Island County Board of Commissioners and Department of Ecology.

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