The Olympian: Mason septic systems on notice

John Dodge in the Olympian:

Faced with conclusive evidence that human sewage is entering Oakland Bay at two locations, the Mason County commissioners said Tuesday that they would take enforcement action against property owners who refuse to work with the county to repair failing septic systems.

The bacterial contamination flowing into the north bay and Chapman Cove is a public health threat and a blow to the bay’s lucrative commercial shellfish industry, the commissioners, acting as the county board of health, acknowledged.

Oakland Bay is a leading clam-producing bay in the nation, said Bill Dewey, a spokesman for Taylor Shellfish Farms, a Shelton-based company. More than half of the state’s 7 million pounds of commercial clams – the largest harvest in the nation – comes from Oakland Bay.

John Konovsky, environmental program manager for the tribe, urged the county to develop a comprehensive action plan to restore and protect water quality in Oakland Bay.

“Oakland Bay is a great candidate for turning things around,” he said. “If we can’t do it here, the whole Puget Sound Initiative is suspect.”

Konovsky was referring to Gov. Chris Gregoire’s plan to clean up and protect Puget Sound by 2020.

The commissioners vowed to take action in the weeks ahead, starting with a community meeting and letter notifying bay area residents of the problems and asking them to allow voluntary inspections of their septic systems.

“If cooperation doesn’t work, we have to take enforcement action,” Commissioner Tim Sheldon said.

Earlier in the Seattle PI: Human waste partly to blame for Oakland Bay problem