Innovative Regional Septic Loan Program partnership wins EPA and local awards

By: Stacy Galleher and Rebecca Brown - Nov 03, 2017
Source: Washington Department of Ecology

We’re excited to announce that the innovative Regional On-Site Sewage System Loan Program developed by Washington state departments of Ecology and Health, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, and Craft3 — a non-profit lender — has been deemed exceptional by the 2017 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) PISCES program.

EPA’s PISCES — or Performance and Innovation in the State Revolving Fund Creating Environmental Success — celebrates excellence and innovation in clean water infrastructure.

Award winning loan program helps fix leaking septic systemsThe EPA selected our Regional On-Site Sewage System Loan Program as one of five exceptional projects across the country. Our program is a public-private partnership that provides funding for Puget Sound property owners to repair or replace failing septic systems.

“This program has been a great success due to the incredible partnership and collaboration between state agencies, local health jurisdictions, county governments, and Craft3. We all worked together to build a sustainable and efficient solution to help protect public health and water quality while giving homeowners viable financing options,” Jeff Nejedly, Ecology financial assistance.

In addition to the PISCES Award, the Regional Loan Program was honored with the “Creative Solutions” award last week at the Infrastructure Assistance Coordinating Council (IACC) conference in Wenatchee. The conference gathers communities, infrastructure providers, and funders. IACC aims to improve infrastructure assistance in Washington. The annual awards ceremony celebrates outstanding achievements in public works projects across the state.

269 septic systems fixed during the first year of our program
Our program was incredibly successful in it's first year. It prevented 36 million gallons — equal to 55 Olympic-sized swimming pools — of wastewater from flowing into Puget Sound watershed. It also brought $6.7 million into local communities to repair and maintain septic systems.

Unexpected household expenses can burden any family, and repairing a failing septic system can run into the tens of thousands of dollars.

The Regional Loan Program attempts to lessen that burden — providing affordable financing for septic repair and replacement to homeowners at many different income levels. Roughly 40% of participants in the last year were low-income borrowers.

We help protect public health and water quality
The program uses public funds in a cost-effective way to:
•Reduce sources of water pollution.
•Improve and protect shellfish areas and ecosystems.
•Improve local governments’ ability to focus on water quality priorities.
•Increase opportunities for property owners unable to qualify for traditional loans.

Roughly a third of Washington households are on septic systems. Well-maintained and functioning septic systems can provide high-quality treatment to household wastewater for many years. Not all septic systems contribute to pollution, but failing septic systems can affect water quality.

Septic systems are only one piece of the clean water puzzle. There are many sources of pollution — such as stormwater runoff, excess nutrients from farms, lawns, and people, agriculture practices, and wastewater treatment facilities. Reducing all sources of water pollution is important to keep Washington waters and communities healthy.

Loan program helps counties provide better service
Our program saves local governments time and money by taking counties out of the lending business. This allows homeowners the ability to go directly to a lender for financial help. By partnering with a non-profit lender like Craft3, counties can focus on providing technical assistance and working with septic professionals to raise awareness.

“Our old program just could not scale up to that kind of volume given our limited staff resources…referring people to Craft3 for septic funding assistance allows us to spend more time helping them with all the permitting details and the technical assistance.

It has been an incredible burden lifted off of me to know that so many more of our citizens-in-need are being helped with their septic repairs,” Kathleen Parvin, Island County Public Health.

Program expanding to Clark and Cowlitz counties
The program currently covers the Olympic peninsula, coastal counties, and most counties around the Puget Sound. We and our partners are actively working to expand the availability of loans to more of the state.

Once a state Capital Budget is passed, Craft3 can begin offering loans in Clark and Cowlitz Counties. Next fiscal year we plan to offer the program to Eastern Washington counties.

Other wastewater funding opportunities
In addition to the regional septic loan program, We have other funding and loan programs available for public entities like conservation districts and counties.

These programs help individuals repair septic systems, and help communities build and repair larger systems. For example, a community could use these funds to connect a whole neighborhoods to a sewer system and abandon septic systems.

We also give funding to communities to help with pollution identification, outreach and education, planning, and surveys to identify problem areas.

Join this program or apply for a loan
If you are a homeowner with a failing or malfunctioning septic system and are interested in a loan, contact Craft 3 at CleanWater@Craft3.org or 888-231-2170 ext. 125.

If you are a local government interested in this program, contact our Local Loan Program Coordinator Rebecca Brown at rebecca.brown@ecy.wa.gov or 360-407-6703.