By Marcy Stamper
Okanogan County is considering a new regulation that would allow the county to approve drinking-water systems that serve up to 14 connections and 24 people a day.
The county used to administer and inspect its own systems but, after state law changed in 2014, the county’s regulation was no longer in compliance, according to J.J. Bellinger, environmental health specialist for Okanogan County Public Health.
The new county regulations would be more rigorous than the state’s requirements, since they would include an inspection every three years, said Bellinger.
Having oversight over these group systems is important because almost 5 percent of county residents get their drinking water from these systems, called “group B.”
The new state law includes stricter criteria for new applications and initial approval of the group B systems, but no requirements for regular water sampling, said Bellinger.
Okanogan County already does water sampling and inspections for larger water systems (group A), which are engineered and approved by the state but can be inspected locally if personnel are certified, said Bellinger. Okanogan County is under contract with the state Department of Health to conduct sanitary surveys on these systems every three to five years.
Okanogan County has about 100 active group A systems and about 450 group B systems, said Bellinger. All the city water systems are classified as group A, as are larger subdivisions such as Wolf Creek.
Depending on the number of people who use the water and the number of days they use it, there are other provisions that dictate which system is required.
The county had begun updating its regulations after the state law changed, but the document was put on hold because the county commissioners — along with commissioners in several other Eastern Washington counties — were awaiting the outcome of legislation that would have allowed commissioners to approve smaller systems with up to nine connections, said Bellinger.
The law contained exceptions that would have authorized these systems even if the groundwater source did not meet local water-quality standards. It required annual testing for potability. After the governor vetoed the legislation earlier this year, the county resumed the update of its regulation.
The Board of Health will hold another hearing on the proposed regulations. No date has been set, but the earliest it could be is at their December meeting, said Bellinger.
For more information or a copy of the draft regulation, contact Public Health at (509) 422-7140.