Chimacum Creek cleanup among priorities for Jefferson County Clean Water District fee hike

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — A fee assessed by the Jefferson County Department of Public Health to support water quality programs will result in a $15 increase per parcel in property tax statements beginning in 2015.

The department is prioritizing projects the new funding stream will support after the increase from the present $5 per parcel to $20 per parcel was approved by the Jefferson County commissioners April 28.

The fee is administered under the county’s Clean Water District operated by the county Department of Public Health.

The increase of four times the present fee will fund several projects, said Jared Keefer, the county’s director of environmental health and water quality.

“There are a number of projects that we want to complete, but we haven’t had the funding,” Keefer said.

“We are going to get to work on these projects that we have been unable to address.”

One of the first projects will be the cleanup of Chimacum Creek, where 24 out of 28 sites failed water quality standards for fecal coliform bacteria concentration in a 2012 test.

Fecal coliform bacteria is found in feces of warm-blooded animals.

While not necessarily an agent of disease, high fecal coliform levels in creeks and streams may indicate the presence of disease-causing organisms that often live alongside the bacteria, according to the state Department of Ecology.

Irondale Beach is another area with high coliform levels, Keefer said.

The fee, which will be reflected in the next property tax statement, will be assessed for all parcels that are not connected to a wastewater treatment plant.

Excluded from the district are those connected to the Port Townsend and Port Ludlow master planned resort system.

All others in East Jefferson County are within the clean water district.

Keefer said about 20,100 sites are subject to the fee and 13,000 are exempt.

The fee will be adjusted annually with regard to the consumer price index.

New funds will be used to test areas where waste is pumped into marine waters by individual septic systems, Keefer said.

If high levels of waste are discovered, repairs will be the responsibility of the property owners, he said.

By the time the funds are available in the middle of 2015, the department will have a project strategy.

It will not start any new programs until the funds are distributed, Keefer said.

“This is good for the county because it gives clean water efforts a sustainable funding source,” County Administrator Philip Morley said.

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: May 14. 2014 7:12PM
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