Program can help pay for septic system work

February 13, 2011 

On-site sewage systems, also called septic systems, require upkeep and sometimes repairs to work properly. Several low-interest loan and grant programs are being offered to help Thurston County property owners repair failing septic systems.

Each program is a little different in the types of activities it covers, in eligibility requirements, and in the funding source.

First, any Thurston County homeowner is eligible to apply for a low-interest loan to repair a failing septic system. A failing system means sewage is surfacing outside or backing up into the house. The loan interest rates are from 1 percent to 3.5 percent, determined by the income of the applicant and the cost of the repair or sewer connection. There is no loan origination fee, and the repayment term can be as long as 20 years. A promissory note and a deed of trust secure the loan. The loan must be repaid before the property can be sold or transferred.

The grant program requires that homeowners be low-income (currently, gross annual combined income of $40,000 or less), enrolled in the senior or disabled property tax exemption program, or have a repair that qualifies as a marine shoreline repair to be eligible. In addition, the repair must require a county permit and the estimated repair or sewer connection must cost at least $2,000. The grant only covers a portion of the total cost, up to $6,000. The actual amount is based on a percentage of the repair cost. Grants do not need to be repaid.

In both cases, Thurston County Environmental Health verifies that the system is failing. The loan or grant may be used to replace the failing system, or to connect to a public sewer. The property must be in Thurston County. The house must not be for sale, and the repair cannot be used to facilitate remodels or expansions.

A third program provides financial assistance to low-income septic owners in shellfish protection districts. Thurston County has two shellfish protection districts – Henderson Inlet and Nisqually Reach – with work plans in place to reduce fecal contamination. Small grants of as much as $500 each are available to help pay for septic system inspections, septic tank pumping, septic tank riser installation, pump replacement, or other minor repairs that do not require a permit.

To be eligible, the homeowner must have a household income of less than $40,000 or be enrolled in the senior or disabled property tax exemption program, and must own and occupy the house. The grant is a cost-share program where the homeowner is responsible for 25 percent of the eligible costs and the grant covers 75 percent. A licensed or certified industry professional must do the work.

Application forms, fact sheets, and further details are available at www.co.thurston.wa.us/health/ehoss/loan_program.html. If you have questions about the Thurston County Loan/Grant Repair Program, call 360-867-2628. For questions regarding the Shellfish Protection District Programs, call 360-867-2643.

Dr. Diana T. Yu is the Health Officer for Thurston and Mason counties. She can be reached at 360-867-2501 or yud@co.thurston.wa.us.

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