Septic to Sewer

Get Connected

Failing Septic TankThere are 1,900 septic systems within the Olympia city limits and an additional 2,250 located within the City’s urban growth area. Septic systems have limited life spans and frequently fail, impacting the environment and the community's water quality.

The City offers a variety of incentives to encourage and assist property owners who may be interested in converting from an exisiting septic system to public sewer.

See the Frequently Asked Questions below for more information.


Frequently Asked Questions


There can be four major costs in converting from a septic system to sewer service: the public sewer infrastructure, side sewer construction, septic system abandonment and connection fees. The estimates shown are approximate costs for connection in 2014, and should be adjusted accordingly for later years.

This cost depends on whether a public sewer is adjacent to your property and suitable for your use. A public sewer is usually eight inches or more in diameter and may be located in a street or a sewer easement through private property. If public sewer is available, you may owe a reimbursement (called a latecomer’s charge) to the installer of public sewer facilities such as pump stations and pipes serving your property. You also might be required to extend the public sewer pipe, at your expense, across all frontages of your property if it is not installed there already.

If no public sewer is available, you would be responsible for extending the public sewer from the end of the City’s existing system to and along the frontage of your property prior to making a connection. The cost to extend a sewer pipe varies, depending on the length of the project, difficulty of the terrain, soil type, need to acquire easements, the amount of engineering work required, pipe and backfill materials specified, methods of construction employed, and surface restoration requirements. In rare cases, you may also owe a latecomer’s charge as described above. Construction of a public sewer requires permitting and inspection by the City’s Community Planning and Development Department at 360.753.8314. To receive a permit, you would be required to submit design plans, conforming with the City’s Engineering Design and Development Standards, for review and approval.

The cost of a sewer extension project can sometimes be shared with your neighbors who also would benefit from the availability of a sewer adjacent to their properties. Longer, shared sewer projects allow for an economy of scale in design and construction that reduces the cost per property, as compared to each property owner sequentially installing a separate, smaller sewer extension project. The City will be constructing a limited number of neighborhood sewers in priority areas.

A side sewer is a four– to six-inch diameter pipeline that runs from your house to the public sewer. The property owner is responsible for constructing and maintaining the side sewer. A design that allows wastewater to flow via gravity from your house to the sewer is preferred. However, the City may allow the installation of an individual privately owned residential grinder pump if elevations don’t permit a gravity flow system. A portion of this sewer (known as a sewer lateral) may have been stubbed out from the public sewer to your property when the sewer main was constructed. Property owners may do work on their own property, but construction within the public right-of-way or City easements requires hiring a licensed contractor registered with the City.

The existing pipeline from the house to the septic tank may be used as part of the new side sewer only if it is a minimum of four inches in diameter. A side sewer is then constructed the rest of the way (sometimes wrapping around the house) to the public sewer. Alternatively, plumbing beneath the house sometimes can be redirected toward the public sewer so as to avoid having to construct a pipeline around the house. The cost is highly variable depending on the side sewer length, terrain, surface conditions, as well as the need for a pump. These costs are paid directly by the property owners to the contractor they hire at the time the work is done.

The Thurston County Environmental Health Program (TCEH) requires that septic tanks be properly abandoned when no longer needed. The existing side sewer as well as the installation of the new side sewer must be completed, inspected and accepted before the existing septic tank is removed from service and abandoned. The abandonment process involves obtaining a permit from TCEH; having the tank pumped out one last time; removing and disposing of the lid or crushing the lid and using it to fill the tank; and filling the empty septic tank with compacted earth, gravel or sand. Specific requirements for septic tank abandonment can be obtained from TCEH at www.co.thurston.wa.us/health/ehoss/.

The City collects a number of fees for permits, inspections and providing collection system and treatment plant capacity. These fees are due prior to connection to a public sewer.

  • LOTT Capacity Development Charge: $4,925
  • City Wastewater GFC: $0** or $3,342
  • Permits for Sewer Connection: $147-$2,100
  • Septic Abandonment Permit: $230

*The City Wastewater GFC is waived per OMC 13.08.205(C) for properties with an existing septic system that connect to the sewer system within two years following notice of sewer availability.

There are various loan and grant programs available through the City of Olympia and Thurston County with differing requirements. Learn more about each below.

Currently, if your property is within 300 feet of an existing gravity public sewer or adjacent to an existing STEP (septic tank effluent pump) sewer, the City will require you to connect to the sewer when your existing system fails or if you are making improvements to your home that would require an expansion of your septic system. The City does not plan to make the conversion of properly functioning septic systems to the public sewer system mandatory. That may change if recovery plans developed by the State of Washington identify the conversion of septic systems as a required action to clean up impaired water bodies within the City of Olympia.

  • It may be required. If your property is within 300 feet of an existing gravity public sewer or directly adjacent to an existing STEP sewer, the City will require you to connect to the sewer when your existing system fails or if you need to expand your septic system to make substantial improvements to your home.
  • Increased market value/ marketability. Converting from septic to sewer can increase the market value of your property. Also, since septic systems are unpopular with many homebuyers, a home with septic may be less marketable at time of sale, as compared to similar properties with sewer connections.
  • Expansion options. A septic system may limit the ability to expand your house or build over portions of your property.

Once connected to the public sewer system, a property owner is required to pay a monthly sewer utility bill. This bill covers the operation and maintenance costs for collection, treatment, and disposal of wastewater, and renovation of the sewers and wastewater treatment facilities. The 2014 sewer rate is $54.29 per month. Sewer rates are set by City Council and the LOTT Cleanwater Alliance annually. State law requires customers to be notified in advance of future increases and allowed an opportunity to be heard and protest.

More than 600 properties currently served by septic systems are adjacent to and eligible to connect to a public sewer. You can reference this Sewer Infrastructure Map to see if sewer service may be available in your neighborhood.

To determine the actual availability, restrictions, and requirements for connection to the sewer contact Wastewater Utility staff at 360.753.8562 or publicworks@ci.olympia.wa.us

When an existing public sewer is available, or a new sewer extension has been constructed follow the steps in appropriate guide below to connect to the public sewer.

If you are not sure which type of service applies to you, please contact Wastewater Utility Staff at 360.753.8562 or publicworks@ci.olympia.wa.us

  • Waiver of the City Wastewater General Facilities Charge (GFC): This incentive is intended to motivate the owners of properties where the sewer is currently available as well as properties benefiting from sewer extension projects to connect to the public sewer. The City’s GFC ($3,199 in 2013) will be waived for properties that abandon a septic system and connect to public sewer within a 2-year time period following formal notification of sewer availability. The City will notify property owners by mail when the sewer becomes available and when the GFC waiver will expire for their property. If you know that the sewer is currently available to your property, there is no need to wait for notice from the City to benefit from the GFC waiver.
  • Special Sewer Connection Charge: Properties converting from a septic system as a result of a neighborhood sewer extension project are eligible to pay their apportioned infrastructure cost through a "special sewer connection charge" to be billed by the City. The charge will only be applicable to the payment of public infrastructure costs. The charge is a flat monthly sum collected over a period of time the length of which would vary based upon the amount due (including interest based upon the bonded rate or the Consumer Price Index). The fixed monthly payment amount is based on the year the payments begin, with a base amount of $200 set in 2009, adjusted each year based on the Consumer Price Index. Property owners will enter an agreement with the City that places a lien against the property for the apportioned cost and agreeing to pay the special charge monthly. Payment in full at the time of a property sale is required. Use of this payment plan is optional.
  • Fixed estimate of Project Costs: If a property within a neighborhood sewer extension project area connects to the sewer within one year of project completion, the property owner will pay the apportionment infrastructure cost based on the lesser of either the estimated or actual cost of construction. This is intended to help property owners plan for financing.
  • Discount on Public Sewer Cost: This incentive is also available only in conjunction with a neighborhood sewer extension project as described above. The City will discount public infrastructure apportionment infrastructure costs, over a threshold value, by 50%. (For example, if the infrastructure costs were $30,000 and the threshold value were $20,000, the City would reduce the cost recovery by $5,000 or half of the cost over $20,000.) The threshold value was $20,000 in 2009 and is adjusted annually for inflation.

The City of Olympia, like most utilities, has long had the policy that development pays for the installation of utilities. Typically, a developer or one or more property owners working together have financed public sewer extensions in the City of Olympia. However, the City is constructing a limited number of Neighborhood Sewer Extension Projects as part of its Septic to Sewer program.

Sewer Extension Financing Scenarios

  • Developer: In the case of an established neighborhood with septic systems, the original developer may be long gone, but sometimes a new developer needs to build a sewer through the neighborhood to get to an undeveloped site. If it is affordable, the developer may use private funding to build the new public sewer extension and potentially have the City collect a reimbursement from property owners of existing homes when they connect to the new sewer main. The reimbursement amount would be a proportional share of the cost of constructing the new sewer main.
  • Other Private Installers: Much like a developer, one or more neighbors can pool their private funds to construct a new sewer main to serve their properties. Again, the City may collect a reimbursement from other property owners when they connect their homes to that new sewer main and disburse the funds to the original installer(s).
  • City: See Neighborhood Sewer Extension projects below.

The City has funding available to construct a limited number of neighborhood sewer extension projects. Property owners that choose to connect with a new sewer project will be required to reimburse the City some portion of the cost of constructing the sewer infrastructure. In neighborhoods selected for a sewer extension project, the City will:

  • Provide a fixed cost up front prior to construction to help property owners prepare for financing;
  • Provide a payment plan ($200 per month) for properties that connect to the sewers that are constructed, and:
  • Cover payment of half of the sewer infrastructure cost over $20,000.

Neighborhood sewer extension projects will be selected based on the following criteria:

  • Neighborhood interest and commitment;
  • Occurrences of septic system failures;
  • Proximity to surface water and wellhead protection areas; and
  • Conditions which contribute to the likelihood of system failures as as the age of septic systems, poor soil conditions, and shallow groundwater.

The City continues to seek neighborhoods interested in sewer extension projects. The key factor in selecting a sewer extension project will be the neighborhood's level of interest and commitment. Sufficient interest is needed to make a project cost effective and successful.

Most public sewer mains can be designed and completed within a year. If significant street repaving is involved, that work may be delayed until the weather is warm enough to allow the paving materials to be installed properly.

A property’s side sewer should connect to the sewer main in the street on which the property fronts. To facilitate the orderly extension of sewer mains, a side sewer may not extend across an adjacent property to connect to a sewer main. There are some extraordinary circumstances, particularly where sewer mains are located within easements and not the right-of-way, in which side sewers may be permitted to be installed within easements across adjacent properties.

Maintenance is key to preventing the failure of your septic system. If your system has been properly designed, sited, and installed, the rest is up to you. Pump regularly, avoid excess water use, and watch what you put down the drain and flush down the toilet. For more operations and maintenance tips, visit the Thurston County Environmental Health Program's website at www.co.thurston.wa.us/health/ehoss/.

Signs of a failing septic system may include slow draining toilets and drains, an odor of sewage, and wet areas on or near the drain field.


Questions?

Contact Wastewater Utility Staff at 360.753.8562 or email publicworks@ci.olympia.wa.us

Note: The Thurston County Environmental Health Program (TCEH) is the agency responsible for permitting septic systems throughout Thurston County including within Olympia’s city limits. For information about maintenance, expansion, enhancement, replacement or abandonment of septic systems call 360.867.2673 or visit www.co.thurston.wa.us/health/ehoss/.