Owner/Applicant:                                             Board of Supervisors Meeting Date:

Fauquier County                                                            May 19, 2003

Staff Lead:                                                                 Department:

Robert C. Counts                                                         Community Development

Magisterial District:  Cedar Run                                PIN(s):

Service District: Midland                                            7809-78-6301-000


SE03-CR-23: A Category 20 Special Exception to Allow the Construction and Operation of a Wastewater Treatment and Disposal System, Fauquier County , Owner and Applicant.       

Topic Description:

The applicant is requesting a Special Exception to construct and operate a wastewater treatment and disposal system, to be located on-site at the Warrenton-Fauquier Airport . The system will consist of an on-site plant providing a secondary level of treatment and a series of drainfield areas to which the treated effluent will be applied via drip irrigation. The system will employ an automated control system to regulate the periodic “dosing” of the drainfields to optimize the absorption and evaporation of applied effluent. The plant will be owned and operated by WSA.

The proposed system is to be brought on line in two phases. The planned capacity for the initial phase is proposed at 4,400 gallons per day (gpd). The first phase will provide minimal level of service (approximately 300-500 gpd) to the Airport property. This phase will also replace an ongoing “pump and haul” system that is currently serving the approximately 13 acre adjacent property owned by Ross Industries (PIN 7900-61-8091). Together, the two uses proposed for Phase I would use approximately 2,500 gallons of daily treatment and disposal capacity.  The County has identified primary drainfield areas to provide a daily treatment and disposal capacity of 4,400 gpd. Additional drainfield areas have also been identified that are sufficient to provide a 100% reserve area.

The ultimate treatment and disposal capacity (including the reserve area) will be approximately 8,800 gpd.  The full utilization of the system contemplates the extension of sewer service to other industrially zoned properties adjacent to the Airport. Such extension of service would be provided on a “first come, first served” basis and would be limited by the capacity of the proposed system.  Since the system’s capacity is constrained by the area suitable for land application of the effluent, expansion to the full capacity will require the use of the identified reserve area. For that reason, the implementation of Phase II must be tied to the County obtaining a discharge permit from the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).  The proposed purpose of the discharge permit is not to allow immediate discharge. It is to allow the utilization of the reserve land area by replacing the “reserve” with an alternative form of disposal should any or all of the land application area fail. Discharge, if approved, would be into the Rappahannock watershed.

The system description provided by the County’s Consultant is included as Attachment 1.

Land Area, Location and Zoning:                                                    

The affected properties are located adjacent to Midland Road (Route 610). The Airport property is zoned I-1 and RA. The Ross Industries property is zoned I-1 and the other adjacent properties are predominantly I-2. The location is shown on the map below.

Neighboring Zoning/Land Use:

The Airport Property is bounded on the east by industrially zoned land. Properties to the north are predominantly in the R-4 zoning district with some I-1 zoning as well. Properties to the west and south of the site are zoned for residential use with some R-4 zoning, but RA is the predominant zoning district.

Action Requested of the Board of Supervisors:

The Board of Supervisors is requested to conduct a public hearing and take action on SE03-CR-23. A resolution, reflecting the Planning Commission's recommendation of conditioned approval, is included for the Board's consideration.

Staff Analysis:

Staff and appropriate referral agencies have reviewed this request for conformance with the Comprehensive Plan, the Zoning Ordinance, and other relevant policies and regulations. Staff and referral agency findings, comments, and recommendations are summarized below.

The Comprehensive Plan

The proposed wastewater system is reflected in the Midland Service District Plan. The collection system, the treatment method and capacity, and the non-discharge land application component are all identified and discussed in the Plan. The method for allocating limited system capacity is also addressed. The stated intent of the limited system is to provide for a longer-term development strategy for the existing industrial properties adjacent to the airport.

Requirements of the Zoning Ordinance

Article 5, Part 20 stipulates that a Special Exception for a private sewage treatment system may be allowed for new construction for Commercial or Industrial uses outside of service districts provided that the system is operated under the control of the Fauquier County Water and Sanitation Authority, or a Class III wastewater operator which holds a current permit licensed in the State of Virginia. In approving such a system the Board may establish conditions including, but not limited to, use, maintenance, and testing.     

Engineering Considerations

The Engineering Division has reviewed this application and has provided the following comments:

1.      The location of any well on the adjacent parcel (PIN # 7809-58-7656-000) should be shown on the site plan.

2.      Soils information should also be shown on the site plan.

3.      Proposed maintenance and monitoring schedules and reporting should be provided.

4.      The sewage treatment facility should be approved by the Virginia Department of Health and other pertinent agencies prior to final site plan approval.


The County’s Soil Scientist has had extensive, direct involvement in the evaluation and selection of the proposed drainfield areas and the design of the proposed system. The following is a summary of his comments:

The identification of a workable replacement system for the Airport has been the subject of a great deal of work performed by both County and State Agencies. The County Soil Scientist initially identified the location of the proposed drip disposal sites. This identification was preceded by an extensive site and soil evaluation conducted over the entire County-owned property.  The area selected would not be suitable for conventional drain lines due to seasonal changes in the water table. However, the proposed location is in one of the better soil areas on the site and has enough acreage to make this system feasible with the use of drip disposal.

A 50-foot grid was laid out over this site and soil profiles were defined at each grid point. The Health Department and John Marshall Soil & Water Conservation District assisted in the collection of this data. This process involved more than 52 soil borings. The County’s Consulting Engineer, Jeff Howeth, PE, conducted the analyses to determine the upper and lower permeability rates that have been used for design of the drip system. The collection system, treatment facility, and on-site disposal site have been reviewed thoroughly. The Construction Plans have been prepared and will be formally reviewed by VDH Engineers in the next few weeks with anticipated permit approval soon to follow.

This proposal will have the appropriate reserve area on-site for the initial phases of this project. As more properties hook up and the drip area is fully utilized, the reserve will shift to a discharge system. The pre-treatment technologies that have been used for the drip system will provide clean wastewater that will be suitable for discharge into a tributary to Brown Run ( Rappahannock watershed), if needed.

Summary and Planning Commission Recommendation:

As stated previously, the County’s Soil Scientist had extensive, direct involvement in the evaluation and selection of the proposed drainfield areas. He supports the design of the proposed system and supports the proposed Special Exception as the best solution to the wastewater treatment issues facing the Airport and adjacent industrial properties. The Planning staff defers to the technical expertise of the Soil Scientist, but offers a few cautionary points.

As presented by the County’s Consultant, the system is described as a “drainfield based system.” This term was defined to mean a system with a capacity that is limited by the availability of suitable drainfield areas. In this particular case, the maximum system capacity has been determined to be 8,800 gpd. To reach this capacity, the system must utilize all of the suitable drainfield area that has been identified: both the primary drainfield sites and the designated reserve area.

The need to utilize the reserve area to achieve full system capacity requires that a discharge permit be obtained to replace or back-up reserve capacity. Based on the anticipated “life” of the land application areas, both the County’s Consultant and County Soil Scientist contend that this discharge capacity will not be necessary to sustain the system capacity now capped at 8,800 gpd. It would be available in case of a drainfield failure. However, as substantiated by the County’s Consultant, the addition of discharge capacity effectively removes the designation of “drainfield based system.” In other words, the system capacity would no longer be constrained by the limits of the drainfield areas, but rather by the amount of allowable discharge. Increasing the treatment capacity and the amount of allowable discharge could, therefore, expand the system. 

The proposed system has evolved through a lengthy planning process, and appears to be a logical and limited response to a well-defined issue.  The limits of the response are important because they provide the basis of a plan that allocates sewer service to some, but withholds it from others. The limits of this response, however, are predicated on the design limitations of the proposed system. Said another way, it is the physical limitations of the “drainfield based system” that provide the rationale for limiting service to specific properties. If this limitation is removed, it may raise questions about the validity of the allocation process. Based on this concern, staff recommends that the system’s capacity be constrained by 1) only using the non-discharge component, or by 2) limiting allowable discharge until a plan for allocating additional capacity is in place.

Absent the discharge component, the system proposed for the Airport and adjacent land is similar to systems being proposed or contemplated for residential developments such as Warrenton Chase and the Raymond Farm property, also located within designated service districts. It is becoming apparent that land application of treated effluent is a form of wastewater treatment that is emerging as a system of choice for a number of developers currently constrained by the scarcity of public sewer connections.  Based on the experiences of other localities, there seems to be little question that the “science” of the proposed systems works if implemented within the context of one critical caveat: They work when they are operated and maintained properly. With that in mind, it is important that the operation of these systems be held to the highest standards. This principle is particularly true of a system owned and operated by the County government.

With these points in mind, the Planning Commission has recommended approval of SE03-CR-23, subject to the following conditions:

  1. Prior to beginning operation, the system shall be owned and operated by WSA.
  2. No expansion beyond the proposed Phase I operation (served by the primary drainfield with a capacity of 4,400 gpd) shall be allowed without an approved discharge capacity being in place, including the permit and the infrastructure needed to utilize a discharge permit.
  3. The initial discharge capacity of the system shall be limited to the 8,800 gpd and will serve only as a 100% back-up to the drainfield system.
  1. The discharge capacity of the system shall not be increased until a plan for allocating additional capacity (i.e., adding users) has been approved by the Board of Supervisors. The Planning Commission shall review any such plan prior to the Board of Supervisors’ consideration.
  2. An on-site back up energy supply shall be provided to protect the plant and related automated controls from operational lapses due to power outages.
  3. The system shall include monitoring equipment and related alarm systems to assure the detection of and response to any malfunction.
  4. The service area of the system shall be limited as set forth in Option 3 of the Comprehensive Plan for the Midland Service District (i.e., the County Airport and adjacent industrial properties).


  1. Engineer’s Description of Proposed System

  2. Special Exception Plat
  3. Approval Resolution