Failing septic systems raise a stink on Bainbridge

Failing septic systems are most likely the cause of elevated fecal contamination along Bainbridge Island’s west side, according to a report issued by the Kitsap County Health District.

The results were published late last month following the conclusion of a health district survey conducted in conjunction with the city.

The survey included approximately eight miles of shoreline along Eagle Harbor, Point White, Crystal Springs and Fletcher Bay areas. Surveyors gather samples from streams, drains or stormwater discharge areas that connect with the Bainbridge shoreline.

A total of 584 samples were collected. Of those samples, more than 12 percent had rates of fecal coliform or E. coli bacteria contamination that exceeded health-code regulations. The presence of fecal coliform or E. coli bacteria on surface water is an indication that human or animal waste is not being disposed of or treated properly.

More than 41 percent of contaminated samples were found between the intersection of Crystal Springs Road and Baker Hill Road up to the mouth of Fletcher Bay on the island’s west side. That four-mile length of shoreline, along with most of the island, is currently closed to shellfish harvesting.

According to the health district, there has only been one confirmed failing septic site in the area, which leads authorities to believe many more could be failing without homeowner knowledge.

A bright spot in the survey is the state of discharge in Eagle Harbor. Only 8 percent of drains in the area needed further investigation, a marked decrease from a 1996 survey which found a discharge contamination rate of 27 percent.

Contaminated samples found in Fletcher Bay and the Pleasant Beach/Point White area are low as well. Identified contamination zones in these areas are already being remedied by homeowners who are fixing failed septic systems, according to the health district.

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