Keeping your septic system healthy, flowing and worry free


Karen Lovett, KP News

Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department on-site sewage and well permitting program manager, Gary Porter assists Laverna Holwilla Spain with questions specific to her septic system problems during a September workshop at the Key Peninsula Civic Center. Photo by Karen Lovett, KP News

Attendees at the Sept. 13, septic workshop at the Key Peninsula Civic Center were rewarded with one-on-one help and information offered by the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department (TPCHD).

Rather than adhere to the planned program that had been designed to address a larger audience, organizers took advantage of low citizen turnout and altered the format to work individually with citizens.

TPCHD promotion coordinator, Jihae Yi, was in charge of organizing the workshop.

Five presentation experts were on hand to discuss their area of expertise about on-site septic system information.

Organizers said septic problems often go unnoticed because they are underground. They said it’s important to check systems periodically to keep them functioning before a failure occurs.

On-site sewage and well permitting program manager, Gary Porter, was available with a computer to access and print a copy of the resident’s septic system design, layout and specifications.

Displays of functional parts of a septic system clarified how a system works and what necessitates pumping. A septic pump and the complete series of operational units of a pump system showed visitors how a pump keeps the system functioning. A broken sewer pipe, completely clogged with roots was a clear reminder what can happen when trees are growing in close proximity to a septic drain field, Porter said.

Key Peninsula resident Leslie Rowan was quite pleased with the workshop.

“I know nothing about septic systems,” Rowan said. “We took advantage of the Septic Care Incentive Program for property owners to get their systems inspected and drained. If we hadn’t done it, we probably would have had a back-up very soon. They had to go in and pull out dense roots in the pipes.”

A number of companies are partnered with Pierce County to participate in the incentive program.

J.R. Inman with FloHawks, one the largest pumping company in Pierce County, stressed the importance of regular inspections every few years. Inman said that it’s not necessary to pump that often, but the state requires septic tanks to be pumped before the sale of a house. Pumping frequency is dependent upon household use and the number of residents in the home, as well as cleaning supplies and other factors that contribute to the timeline necessary between pumpings.

Laverna Holwilla Spain came to the workshop with serious concerns.

“I needed septic information and help,” Spain said. “My alarm goes off a lot during the rainy season and snow.

“They said it sounds like there is a leak that lets ground water get in. I’m on limited income. They’re going to see about giving me assistance to get it taken care of. This is the information, but I didn’t know how to get it. I felt intimidated by the problem and didn’t know what to do,” Spain said.

Bill Creveling of Leroy Surveyors and Engineers, Inc. discussed Spain’s issues and came up with solutions for her.

Attendees names were entered in a drawing resulting in two lucky winners. Paula Petersen won a $25 gift card to Fred Meyer.

“I never lived with a system,” Petersen said. “I just wanted basic knowledge. They absolutely answered all my questions.”

Leslie Rowan won $250 off any service from FloHawks. Since she already had her system inspected and pumped with financial assistance through the incentive program, she was pleased that her win came with no expiration date.

If you own a pressure distribution or gravity septic system on the Key Peninsula the TPCHD wants the community to know that citizens may qualify for $125 off your inspection, $200 off tank pumping and $125 off riser installation. Routine inspections are required for septic systems so this is a great opportunity.

For information, call (253) 798-4788, email or visit