Meeting Date:

 Raymond E. Graham, Cedar Run District  

May 19, 2003

Staff Lead:


Danny Hatch, County Soil Scientist
Charles Shepherd, District Manager

Community Development
County Health Department


Topic: Proposed Sewage System Maintenance and Monitoring Ordinance, Fauquier County Code


Topic Description:  

The work session will cover a proposed amendment to the Fauquier County Code Chapter 17, focusing on sewage system maintenance and monitoring for both new conventional and alternative systems.  

Work Session Summary:  

For many years, the Board of Supervisors has expressed interest in requiring some type of maintenance program for individual septic systems. In the past, there have been discussions about initiating a program that would require maintenance and pump out of septic tanks on a regular basis for both new conventional and alternative systems. As a result, this proposal was initiated at the Planning Commission and staff level and will aid in obtaining that goal.  This proposal becomes more important as Fauquier County has initiated work on the overall management of the quality and quantity of its water resources.  

Due to the Virginia Department of Health’s adoption of its 2000 regulations, there are a number of alternative wastewater systems, which are now allowed statewide. It is critical that these systems have perpetual routine maintenance. The performance of the alternative and conventional systems is dependent on how they are monitored and maintained. The complexity and degree of maintenance required on different technologies will have to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. 

There is currently no State Regulation or Local Ordinance that requires mandatory maintenance and monitoring of the alternative systems. According to Health Department records, there are approximately 60 residential alternative systems that are being used throughout Fauquier County .  With the recent increase of the number of acceptable alternative systems for installation in Virginia , the proposed ordinance would allow the County to ensure the proper performance of future on-site residential wastewater systems.  

Proposed Ordinance Objectives:  

The proposed ordinance enclosed is for on-site wastewater treatment systems that are regulated by the Commonwealth of Virginia Sewage , Handling, and Disposal Regulations.  Its intent is to protect the environment, the citizens of Fauquier County , inform the public of the long-term effect and cost of an alternative system, and protect the County from dealing with premature failures which may result in the untimely and expensive extension of public utilities.  

Implementation of this program will also positively affect several other strategic Board of Supervisors programs, such as the ground water protection study and the designing of County owned community sewer systems.  

Planning Commission Action:  

At a work session on January 23, 2003 , the County Staff and the Commissioners discussed the proposed amendment to the Fauquier County Code. The Planning Commission originally scheduled the proposed amendment for its February Public Hearing Agenda,, which was rescheduled in March due to inclement weather.  At the Public Hearing three individuals responsible for installing septic systems spoke in favor of the ordinance; there was no opposition.  

The Planning Commission unanimously forwarded the proposed amendment to Chapter 17 of the Fauquier County Code to the Board of Supervisors for adoption as presented.


Requested Action of the Board of Supervisors:  

At the conclusion of the work session, schedule a public hearing for the proposed amendment to Chapter 17 of the Fauquier County Code.


Financial Impacts Analysis:

The County Health Department does not anticipate an immediate financial need at this time in order to initiate the implementation of this program. Future personnel and office costs should be covered by local fees, which are currently being reviewed and amended. Due to the limited number of these systems currently in the County, the initiation of this program should not be overwhelming. The anticipated numbers of these alternative systems being installed in the future and ensuring that existing systems are in performance compliance will be financed by a fee which is being developed.  

At the present time, the Rappahannock-Rapidan Regional Commission (RRRC; PD-9) is working with the County in developing a tracking program to identify and locate all on-site systems on a GIS-associated layer. Also this regional tracking program should allow the County to develop a program to monitor these systems that need annual maintenance, if that is the direction the Board of Supervisors wants to pursue. Grant monies are being sought to finance these computer programs and provide personnel to enter data.

Identify any Departments, Organizations or Individuals that would be affected by this request:

 Health Department, Community Development, County Attorney’s Office, Commissioner of the Revenue, Certified Professional Soil Scientists/Authorized On-Site Soil Evaluators, Licensed Professional Engineers, Homeowners, Certified Maintenance Professionals, State Certified System Installers, Licensed Land Surveyors


Public Summary Information:

The proposed Ordinance will require that new conventional systems be pumped every five (5) years or sooner if home has a garbage disposal. Homeowner would pay for this service.  It does not affect systems approved and functioning; those are grandfathered systems.  

All alternative systems (i.e., on-site systems with smaller footprint than conventional systems and all systems which require pretreatment) will require an engineered design and stamp certification. This requirement is not mandated by State Health Department Regulations for many proprietary systems that have been approved for use in the Commonwealth of Virginia . This Engineering fee would add to the cost of some alternative systems being proposed in the County, and limit the design to qualified professionals that can seal and certify such systems.  

The County staff and Health Department’s position is that this fiscal impact would be minimal to the system owner and in many cases when the system design incorporates a proprietary system product, the manufacturer’s operation and maintenance manual may be adequate. It is the intent of this Ordinance to inform the homeowner how to properly use their particular on-site system, and this communication is best done with a specific engineered design. It also places more liability on the engineer to ensure that the maintenance and monitoring of the homeowner’s system is clearly understood and is performed according to design.  

Alternative systems that require maintenance over and above conventional systems will require a Conditional Permit with the maintenance requirements recorded as part of the permit approval. This will ensure that present and future homeowners will maintain and provide monitoring data to the County so a major failure will not occur due to system abuse or internal mechanical malfunction.  

After final edit and approval by the Board of Supervisors, this Ordinance would be incorporated into Chapter 17.


Attachment 1

  Proposed Amendment to Chapter 17 of the Fauquier County Code  


Sec. 17-20 Categories of onsite waterborne sewage disposal systems.   

There are two categories of onsite waterborne sewage disposal systems:  

A.      Traditional systems:  

A traditional on-site sewage disposal system consists of a sewer line, septic tank, distribution box and a series of 2’ to 3’ wide drainfield laterals installed in gravel.  These systems are designed to dispose and treat the effluent at a depth of 18’’ to 54’’ and depend on the naturally occurring soil.  Traditional systems may use a sewage pump to lift the effluent to a single higher elevation.  

B.     Alternative systems  

1.  Alternative proprietary pre-engineered systems:  

A proprietary pre-engineered system is an alternative non-discharge system which has received general approval from the State Health Commissioner.  

 2.   Alternative Engineered systems:  

Engineered systems are those non-discharge systems which have not received general approval from the State Health Commissioner.  

Sec. 17-21  Design Requirements for Alternative systems  

A.  Alternative proprietary pre-engineered systems  

An Authorized on Site Soil Evaluator (hereinafter AOSE) may design a proprietary pre-engineered system which is within the pre-engineered limits of the system.  When the system is not within the pre-engineered limits or involves a reduction in disposal area, the Health Department may require design or review by a Professional Engineer, licensed to practice in the Commonwealth of Virginia in consultation with an Authorized On-site Soil Evaluator and Virginia Certified Professional Soil Scientist.  

B.  Alternative Engineered systems  

Engineered systems shall be designed by a Professional Engineer licensed to practice in the Commonwealth of Virginia in consultation with an AOSE and Virginia Certified Professional Soil Scientist.  

17-22  Routine maintenance and monitoring requirements for onsite systems:  

A.     Traditional systems:  

Traditional systems must be cleaned every 5 years unless there is a garbage disposal unit or grinder pump, in which case the septic tank must be cleaned at more frequent intervals if necessary to prevent non-biodegradable material from migrating to the disposal field.  After the date of adoption of this ordinance, all new or replacement septic tanks shall be installed with adequate manholes, properly secured, to allow easy inspection and cleaning of the holding tank.  

B.     Maintenance and monitoring of Alternative systems:  

  1.   As a requirement of the engineered design every alternative system must have an “Operation and Maintenance” manual, written in lay terms which can be easily understood by the homeowner as well as the professional operator (if required).  At a minimum, when the engineer prepares the original plan for the alternative system, that person must specify the effluent limits for the system as well as the routine service requirements and degree of expertise required to operate the system.  When the system design incorporates a proprietary system, the manufacturer’s operation and maintenance manual may be adequate to comply with this section if so stipulated by the designer.
  1. Alternative systems that require routine maintenance over and above traditional systems require a CONDITIONAL PERMIT with the maintenance requirements recorded as a part of the permit approval.  The conditional permit, along with the document which enumerates the conditions must be recorded and indexed in the grantee index in the Land Records of Fauquier County.  The Health Department may impose conditions based upon the maintenance requirements of the system including but not limited to a requirement for a maintenance contract, professional operator or demonstration of competency to operate the system by the owner/ operator.

C.  Maintenance of disposal fields for traditional and alternative systems.  

1.  An appropriate ground cover shall be established and maintained over the disposal site.   Permanent lawn irrigation systems are prohibited within twenty feet of any disposal area.  Trees and shrubs shall not  be planted or allowed to grow in the disposal field.  The area reserved for the subsurface disposal field and future repair of the system shall be retained for that sole purpose.  

2.  No structures shall be placed over the subsurface soil absorption system. Driveways or parking lots shall not be constructed on the subsurface soil absorption system unless the invert of the lead or header lines or top of the gravel in the absorption trenches is deeper than 30 inches below the ground surface and the driveway or parking lot is paved with portland cement or bituminous concrete to prevent compaction of the trench bottom. Driveways and parking lots shall not be constructed over the distribution box unless adequate structural and access provisions are provided.  

17-23  Neglect  

In order to protect the public health it shall be unlawful for any owner to neglect or abuse any sewage disposal system, fail to perform the routine or necessary maintenance, fail to comply with the requirements of a conditional permit, fail to file required monitoring reports, or fail to comply with any other provision of this article.  

17-24  Violations; Penalties; Applicability  

The penalty for any violation of this Article shall be the same as that set forth in Article I, Section 17-19.  This Article shall apply to all systems constructed after the date of adoption.