Strait Priority Areas Project

The Strait Priority Areas Project will improve and protect water quality in both developed and undeveloped areas of Jefferson County, Discovery Bay, areas of the Northern Quimper Peninsula including the city of Port Townsend, several watersheds (Salmon, Snow, Contractors and Eagle creeks), and approximately 35 miles of shoreline (see map below). This project will monitor shorelines, freshwater streams, and Discovery Bay for non-point sources of pollution and nutrients. This project also hopes to increase public awareness of water quality issues through outreach and education efforts.

Discovery Bay contains over 3,000 acres of prime shellfish habitat, which are regionally important for commercial and recreational harvesting. Previous monitoring by Washington State Department of Health has indicated declining water quality due to fecal coliform bacteria that threatens to close shellfish beds to harvest. Discovery Bay is listed as impaired for low dissolved oxygen on the Department of Ecology’s 303d list. The goals of the Strait Priority Areas Project are to protect human health from risks of waterborne pathogens, keep shellfish beds open, assess whether streams meet Washington State Water Quality Standards, and correct found sources of fecal indicator bacteria.

Regular monitoring of freshwater and marine waters will identify areas of concern and help to narrow sources of non-point pollution. Stream nutrient levels will be assessed to check for possible excess contributions to Discovery Bay. Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) and Jefferson County Conservation District (JCCD) will jointly conduct the stream monitoring, and JCCD will develop an Agricultural Work Plan for implementing best management practices (BMPs) to help prevent livestock waste entering waterbodies through surface runoff. The status and condition of septic systems in the project area will be assessed by JCPH through surveys and help prioritize areas for Pollution Identification and Correction work. The Strait Priority Areas Project area contains several hundred older or undocumented septic systems within 500 feet of the shoreline.

A JCPH septic system survey consists of:

  • 5-minute questionnaire on your water use patterns and maintenance history
  • tips for maintaining your system
  • information about upcoming homeowner classes
  • information about rebates and financial assistance for repairs
  • quick visual inspection of the drainfield

When available, JCPH provides a copy of the “as-built” drawing from the permit files to the homeowner as a courtesy. It’s easier to take care of components when you know where they are! Sometimes JCPH also has water-conservation kits to offer to survey respondents on a first-come, first served basis.

Although pollution problems can seem challenging, when everyone pitches in even large problems can be overcome. Through the Strait Priority Areas Project, JCPH and JCCD, with the help of Jefferson County residents, strive to maintain and improve the water quality within Jefferson County.

Septic tank decommissioning in the Port Townsend area

Many residents with properties served by sewer don’t realize they may also have an on-site septic system on their property. Homes in Port Townsend built prior to the installation of the sewer system had some sort of septic system. Whether or not the septic system was removed depends on the year that the connection to sewer was made. For houses connected in the past 10 years there is a good chance that we have records showing when and how the septic system was decommissioned. Houses built before 1970 may not have any septic permit records, making it difficult to know what happened on the site. For properties of intermediate age, there is an uneven record – some sites still have active septic permits. Why is this important? Old septic tanks can be a hazard if not removed properly. Lids can fail, and people and pets can fall in. Some individuals may be able to avoid extra fees and notifications after decommissioning a system that is no longer in use. Staff have been reaching out to those residents with properties that are connected to sewer where we have no record of decommissioning. If you think you may have an old, unused septic tank on your property, give us a call and we will help guide you through the process. For more information, see our Decommissioning brochure. There is also a Certification of Tank Decommissioning Form for septic professionals.


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