Officials outline Dungeness septic options, costs

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

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SEQUIM –– With many of the decades-old septic systems that handle waste from homes in the Dungeness and Three Crabs neighborhoods leaking into the waters that feed Dungeness Bay, officials are looking into the need for a new community sewer system.

Options for replacing the current septic systems range in cost from $13 million to $25 million, Damon McAlister with the Parametrix engineering firm of Bremerton — which has developed a draft Dungeness Wastewater Treatment Feasibility Study — told landowners at a meeting at the Dungeness Schoolhouse on Saturday morning.

Ann Soule with the Clallam County Environmental Health Department said the county was awarded a grant from the state Department of Ecology last year to develop a plan to improve the quality of Dungeness Bay’s water.

The goal is to come up with a plan that would treat sewage from the north shore neighborhoods to a level that would reduce fecal coliform contamination, improve habitat for salmonids and allow the bay to be reopened to shellfishing.

“This is the kind of search for an elegant solution to a problem that I just love,” Clallam County Commissioner Jim McEntire said after the meeting.

The county says on its website,, that microbial source tracking in the Dungeness Bay shellfish growing area adjacent to this community — portions of which are closed for commercial harvest — “shows that human waste is a contributor to water quality degradation.”

It also says that failing to deal with septic system problems could lead to lower property values.

McAlister presented a handful of landowners and officials in attendance Saturday with four options: replace aging septic tanks with more modern systems; install smaller sewer systems for clusters of houses; have a large, centralized system to collect and treat wastewater; or develop a central collection system that would pump the sewage to Sequim for treatment.

“Each has its pros and cons,” McAlister said.

“What we’re trying to determine is what would provide the most benefit for the least cost.”

McAlister’s presentation Saturday listed a range of prices from a low of $13 million for new septic systems for each lot all the way up to $25 million, which would be the cost for the central collection and treatment option.

Treated water must come out as a Class A effluent, McAlister said, which means it would be suitable to irrigate land but will not be consumed by humans.

Unless a grant is acquired to help pay for the construction, the cost of the upgraded sewer system would be borne by land owners.

The most expensive option would mean the average cost to lot owners would be up to $46,860.

Matt Heins of Dungeness Farms, though, noted the cost could be factored based on lot size or other figures that would require larger lot owners, like him, to pay more.

He said the cost would be worth it, however.

Dungeness Farms would eventually be able to use a commercial shellfish license it hasn’t been able to use for 15 years because of the pollution in the bay, he said.

The Clallam County health department held a pair of public hearings on the sewage dilemma last year, collecting surveys from residents who said improving the quality of the Dungeness Bay was their top priority.

Another public hearing probably will be held in March before a final draft of the feasibility study is presented to Clallam County commissioners later this year, county personnel said.

See the county website for the draft feasibility study.

Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at

Last modified: February 10. 2013 5:52PM
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