Decades of turning a blind eye to the health hazards at Lake Tapps
A timeline of the expanding septic disaster in and around the lake



"Bonney Lake’s sewer system has a history that is convoluted, contentious and colorful.
It includes tales of political fratricide and financial brinksmanship."
~ City of Bonney Lake


Click to watch the Video Timeline

The “History” tab includes documents in an easy to read timeline, beginning in 1963 and continuing through today. The documents illustrate what Bonney Lake describes so eloquently and make it abundantly clear that Lake Tapps can never be developed without sanitary sewers. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ordered Pierce County to run sewers to Lake Tapps in 1983.  Pierce County ignored the Order and was sued by the EPA. In an out of court settlement Pierce County agreed to run sewers to Lake Tapps. The sewer system has never happened. According to the legal opinion requested by Shawn Bunney, the Out of Court Settlement is still enforceable.

My family entered the Lake Tapps Nightmare in 2007. After spending tens of thousands of dollars attempting to save our dream home from the floodwaters of Lake Tapps, the engineers suggested I test the septic system. The system failed immediately. We knew when I turned the test report into the Tacoma Pierce County Health Department our dream home would be uninhabitable and worthless. Dozens of people who live on Lake Tapps urged me to keep quiet.  They feared once the open secret became public knowledge, with what they already knew and what we just learned, their property values would plummet. Unfortunately for them I couldn’t do as the first homeowners did to my family and what these people have attempted to do and sell my nightmare to someone else. 

Throughout the nightmare everywhere I turned, most people already knew about failed septic systems on Lake Tapps. When I turned in the failed septic system report to the Health Department a manager came out to talk to me about “never moving back onto Lake Tapps” because she didn’t want “me to go through this all over again.” She spent nearly three hours going over every development on Lake Tapps and their issues with failed septic systems. The Assessors/Treasurers office responded almost verbatim with Health. Ask local Lake Tapps Realtors and brokers (if you’re not interested in buying a house on Lake Tapps) and they will go over the horror stories. Local excavation contractors talk about how they bypassed failed drainfields and piped the sewage directly into Lake Tapps; with Pierce County’s knowledge. Talk to current homeowners on Tapps Island and you’ll get an earful about their “green water,” about how so much chlorine is added to the water to kill the fecal coliform that it turns their hair green. Google Earth Tacoma Point, Driftwood Point or just about anywhere on the west side of Lake Tapps and you can see City sized lots developed with on site septic systems. City sized lots with on site Septic systems and drainfields that Pierce County and the Health Department have recently allowed to be built on top of. 

We learned what happened to us can, has and will continue to happen everywhere in Pierce County and the State of Washington. We learned people can and will lie on the real estate disclosure forms without consequences. “Professional Real Estate Inspectors” work for Realtors, not the potential homebuyer; our house was “professionally inspected.” Washington State is one of the few in the Union that require a homeowner to have “privity of contract” with the contractor to recover damages for construction defects. The immunity Pierce County and its employees believe they enjoy is dangerous and reckless. They take our money for permits and inspections to ensure compliance with Building Codes and often falsify inspection records. Without consequences anything goes and it goes rampant around Lake Tapps. Governments are every bit as greedy, if not more so, than any corporation. 

The final chapter depends on how involved citizens around Lake Tapps become. Although it’s much easier to kill the messenger when you can’t kill the message, the banter is wasting the time that is desperately needed to force the political will necessary for the only workable solution. If the current homeowners choose not to act, Cascade Water Alliance will. Cascade Water along with Department of Ecology and the City of Bonney Lake have already warned the homeowners the day for hooking up to sanitary sewers is quickly approaching. If there isn’t a treatment plant with capacity when that day comes the houses with failed septic systems will become “uninhabitable” and like mine, will be worthless. 

Physical science is beautiful; the soils around Lake Tapps are what they were 47 years ago when they were classified by USGS as unsuitable for on-site septic systems. In fact, they are the same soils as they were 8,000 years ago. The City sized lots that are too small for septic systems haven’t grown in size. The technology for septic systems are essentially the same as they were 47 years ago. All septic systems fail which is why a “reserve drainfield” is a requirement for every building lot in the State of Washington. These facts cannot be altered or disputed.