Location, Zoning and
Current Land Use:
The property is located on
the south side of Ritchie Road (Route 644), east of its
intersection with Marsh Road (Route 17), Cedar Run
District. The property is currently the site of Synagro’s
lagoon and a portion of the Ritchie family’s farming
operation. The property is zoned a combination of Rural
Agriculture (RA) and Industrial (I-1).
Surrounding Zoning and
Current Land Use:
Property to the north,
south, and east is zoned Rural Agricultural (RA) and used
for farming and residential purposes. Property to the west
is zoned Industrial (I-1 and I-2) and the site of Fauquier’s
Finest, an abattoir, and Payne’s Paving operations.
In 1987 the Fauquier County
Board of Supervisors approved a Special Exception for a
Class A sludge storage facility on the property. In 1992,
1997, and 2002 the Special Exception was renewed for five
year periods by the Zoning Administrator. The applicant
wishes to amend several of the previously approved
conditions with this renewal; therefore, a public hearing is
required. With the Special Exception Amendment, staff noted
the existing use is located within the 100-year floodplain
and has required a Special Exception for Category 23,
Comprehensive Plan/Land Use:
The subject property is
designated as a rural area and is subject to the Rural Areas
Land Use Plan, Chapter Eight, of the Comprehensive Plan.
Preservation and enhancement of the rural areas and
preservation of the agricultural economy in Fauquier County
have consistently been major goals of the County. The
County seeks to nurture agriculture and help preserve the
land resource for future farming opportunities through
actions and programs under its control and domain.
Special Exception Analysis:
Article 5-006, General
General standards seek to
ensure that the requested use does not adversely affect
Article 5-1801, Standards
for All Category 18 Uses in Rural Zoning Districts
As agriculture is the
preferred use in these districts (see Section 3-503),
consideration relating to compatibility with neighboring
uses shall emphasize uses in the vicinity of a proposed
Category 17 special permit.
The surrounding uses are all
agricultural with the exception of the neighboring Category
17, abattoir and Payne’s Paving. The Zoning Administrator
has opined that this is an agricultural use.
Article 5-1806, Additional
Submission Requirements for Class B Biosolids Storage
In addition to the
submission requirements set forth in Section 5-011 above,
all applications for special exceptions for biosolids
storage facilities for Class B biosolids shall be
accompanied by the following:
Copies of submission to the State Health Department
or Department of Environmental Quality for the proposal.
Copies of Certificate of Insurance.
A statement authorizing Fauquier County to sample
biosolids when desired.
The Department of
Environmental Quality is currently processing renewal of the
permit. The other items have been provided.
Article 5-1807, Additional
Standards for Class B Biosolids Storage Facility
1. Applicable approvals
substantiated by documents called for in paragraph 1806.1
above. No activities addressed for such State certificates
and approvals except in full compliance therewith.
2. Unless specifically
reduced by the Board, for good cause shown, no such facility
shall be located closer than 300 feet to any lot line or
closer than 1000 feet to any land not in an Agriculture,
Conservation or I-2 zoning district.
3. Unless specifically
reduced by the Board, for good cause shown, the highway
entrance to such a facility shall be located not more than
1000 feet from a major collector, on a secondary road with
pavement not less than 20 feet.
4. Proof that the
insurance has been obtained covering the proposed activities
sufficient to protect the public from damage and injury
resulting from the hauling, storage or application of
sludge. The sufficiency of such insurance shall have been
previously approved by the Board.
5. Verification that the
applicant has sufficient land in Fauquier County available
upon which to apply to holding capacity of the storage
facility within a period of ninety (90) days.
The use does appear to be
compatible with the surrounding agricultural area and has
been continuing in the same location for over twenty years.
The other standards dealing with location, proof of
insurance and verification of land availability have been
provided by the applicant.
Article 5-2301, Standards
for All Category 23 Uses
1. No such use shall cause
an increase in the level of flooding or velocity of flood
2. No such use shall
create a potential hazard of debris subject to movement by
flood waters which might cause damage downstream.
3. The John Marshall Soil
and Water Conservation District shall be given the
opportunity to comment on such uses.
4. The applicant shall
have obtained and shall present evidence attesting any
applicable approvals by State and Federal authorities
concerning such a use.
5. Materials and equipment
stored in the floodplain shall not be buoyant, flammable or
explosive, and shall not be subject to major damage by
flooding or such materials and equipment must be firmly
anchored to prevent flotation or movement and/or can be
readily removed from the area within the time available
after flood warning.
6. Special exceptions
shall only be issued after the Board of Supervisors has
determined that the granting of such will not result in (a)
unacceptable or prohibited increase in flood heights, (b)
additional threats to public safety, (c) extraordinary
public expense, (d) create nuisances, (e) cause fraud or
victimization of the public, or (f) conflict with local law
7. Special exceptions
shall only be issued after the Board of Supervisors has
determined that the special exception will be necessary to
provide the applicant with reasonable use of the parcel of
land in question, taken as a whole.
8. The Zoning
Administrator shall notify the applicant for a special
exception in writing, at the time of filing, that the
issuance of a special exception to construct a structure
below the one hundred (100) year flood elevation (a) will
increase risks to life and property, and (b) will result in
increased premium rates for flood insurance.
A record of the above notification as well as all
special exception actions, including justification for their
issuance, shall be maintained and any special exceptions
which are issued shall be noted in the annual report
submitted to the Federal Insurance Administrator.
The applicant has provided
calculations indicating the previously constructed lagoon
has caused a maximum increase in the 100-year flood
elevation of 0.02 feet compared to pre-developed
The majority of the lagoon
site is located within the 100-year FEMA floodplain as shown
with the cross-hatching below. The location of the access
road has been moved out of the floodplain since the aerial
below was taken.
Staff and Review Agency
Staff and appropriate
referral agencies have reviewed this request for conformance
with the Comprehensive Plan, the Zoning Ordinance, and other
relevant policies and regulations. Findings, comments, and
recommendations are summarized below. Following each
comment is a staff note in italics stating how the comment
has been addressed:
Category 18, Class B
Biosolids Storage Facility
Update: The Engineering
Division had the following comments on the testing
information supplied by the applicant prior to last month’s
Depth to groundwater
appears to be less during the times when sludge is
stored in the facility (i.e. during the winter months).
proposed on page 8: What are the interceptor trenches?
French drains? Was the point to divert water around the
facility to decrease inundation from stormwater? Why
would this require a discharge permit?
The report references
test pits excavated “in and around the facility” to test
the integrity of the liner (page 9). Test pits are much
more impactive than core samples, as were suggested by
this office, and this was not considered destructive to
The revised version of
the January 22, 2008 samples showed a large spike in
Sodium in all of the monitoring wells, and an exceedence
of the EPA ambient surface water standard for Copper,
Zinc and Nitrates in MW-3.
DEQ has provided their
analysis and it is included as Attachment 11. The
Engineering Office worked closely with staff in preparing
conditions of approval for the Special Exception requests.
Condition number 1 requires the applicant to hire a licensed
professional engineer or geologist to determine if the
facility is negatively affecting ground or surface water.
Previous comments from the
Engineering Division are as follows:
In the 2/11/08
Synagro letter Mr. McMahon stated that Synagro was in
agreement with the following four comments:
June 2008 the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality
will stop monitoring for fecal coliform and begin monitoring
for e. coli as they consider this to be a better indicator
of stream health. It is suggested that with the permit
renewal, e. coli characterization be provided with the
When the State permit is
re-issued as a DEQ permit e. coli testing will be required
for stream sampling instead of the current fecal coliform.
Staff has provided a condition requiring e. coli monitoring.
embankments should be inspected at some regular interval for
impacts from burrowing animals. Burrowing could compromise
the structure of the embankment and allow for seepage.
It has been noted in
Synagro’s State permit inspection that there is a problem
with burrowing animals. Synagro will be removing the
animals and monitoring the site on a regular basis. A
condition has been provided requiring removal and
monitoring on a regular basis and which also allows the
County to inspect at any time.
elevations for the facility should be supplied.
The applicant has
provided the 1987 plans plus today’s aerial topographic
survey confirming the depth of the lagoon and thus the
capacity. In addition, the applicant provided a letter
dated January 11, 1990, from William C. Kraye, Ph.D., P.E.
to the Virginia Department of Health stating that the lagoon
was constructed in accordance with approved plans and
specifications. The County’s Engineering Division was
concerned that the liner was not installed as outlined in
the plans and thought the applicant may need to do a core
sample or provide an engineering assessment as to how it was
constructed. The submitted material should alleviate the
concerns as to how the facility was constructed.
monitoring stations should be clearly marked, and a location
well upstream of the facility should be monitored.
locations SW1 and SW2 have been clearly marked. The SW1
that has been monitored for many years is actually upstream
from the lagoon. A Surface Water Monitoring well location
map has been provided and a condition included that these
locations remain clearly marked and maintained. A condition
has been included requiring an additional stream monitoring
location upstream from the facility.
This information should all
be supplied to the County prior to approval.
outlined above, the information has been provided.
in their letter that they did not feel that it was necessary
to extend the vegetated buffer between the biosolids land
application area and the stream on the property. The
vegetated buffer that currently exists on the property is
acceptable by State standards; however it is vegetated
mostly with a mowed grass area. The scrubby vegetated area
extends only 15 feet in some locations. This does not
suffice as adequate treatment considering the biosolids
application occurring every three years along with the
additional application of liquid that has separated out of
the biosolids and combined with stormwater. This
application is done within the floodplain.
This site is located on a
tributary to Browns Run. Browns Run has been designated by
the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality as an
impaired stream. The levels of fecal coliform found in this
stream exceed those that are considered safe for primary
contact. DEQ has determined that the impairment begins at
the 17 Bridge, just downstream of the Ritchie property and
extending down to the confluence with Marsh Run. Based on
this information, a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL)
Implementation Plan will be put together (as required by
EPA) for Browns Run. A TMDL is the maximum amount of any
known contaminant that a stream can carry while still
meeting primary (swimmable, fishable) contact standards. In
this case, the contaminant is fecal coliform. Fecal
coliform, or more specifically, e.coli enters into surface
water by way of humans, livestock, pets and wildlife. The
only way to determine precisely where the contaminant is
coming from is to perform Bacterial Source Tracking. This
is a process that attempts to identify a signature in the
contaminated water that can be matched with a specific
species. This has been done on Browns Run and the results
have shown the sources to be from all above identified
It is possible that this
will affect future sewer discharge permits. Once a stream
has been determined to be impaired, the State encourages
Best Management Practices to be used in dealing with
discharge of fecal material into surface waters. This
encompasses both Agricultural and Residential development.
This also affects sewage treatment in that if a stream is
already impaired the discharge standards become higher for
sewage treatment plants.
In order to mitigate for the
possible runoff from the facility, and the land application
of biosolids as well as stormwater that has settled on the
biosolids, a planted riparian buffer could help to uptake
nutrient runoff. According to Natural Resource Conservation
Service standards, the minimum effective planted buffer
width is 35 feet. In this case, the state has required that
a 50 foot buffer be maintained between the field that
receives land application of biosolids as well as biosolids
stormwater, however this is mostly made up of a mowed grass
area that may be fertilized. Mowed grass does not act to
uptake nutrients as effectively as a buffer planted with
trees. The recommendation would be for the 35 feet
extending out from the stream bank be heavily planted
according to NRCS specifications, leaving the remaining 15
feet in grass with no fertilization allowed. The grass area
would allow for spreading and slowing of the runoff. The
cost of the tree planting has been estimated by the John
Marshall Soil and Water Conservation District (JMSWCD) to be
$800/acre. The proper planting specifications can be
obtained from JMSWCD. If a buffer was extended 1,000 feet
the cost would be less than $800. In terms of extending the
buffer, more is always better in terms of conservation,
studies have shown a riparian buffer of less than 35 feet
does not provide adequate uptake so this 50 foot buffer is
the bare minimum.
There is no precise
evidence to suggest that the existing vegetative buffer of
50’ is inadequate in protecting water quality, nor is there
clear evidence that the biosolids land applications are
contributing to the impairment of Brown’s Run. The
applicant has agreed to a 35’ riparian buffer and a
condition has been added.
management practices should be installed for washing of
equipment handling biosolids. The wash water should be
drained into the facility to prevent offsite migration.
According to the 2/11/08 Synagro letter, the State does
require vehicles to be checked for loose material prior to
leaving the facility.
A condition has been
included requiring the wash water to be drained into the
Characterization should be provided on the stormwater that
is collected in the facility prior to land application. The
water should be sampled for Nitrogen, Phosphorus, heavy
metals, fecal coliform, and e. coli bacteria. Currently,
this liquid is not characterized for fecal coliform or e.
coli. Due to the proximity of this property to a stream
impaired with fecal coliform, this water should be tested
prior to being applied adjacent to the stream.
The stormwater is
currently monitored for everything listed above with the
exception of fecal coliform. A condition has been included
requiring the water to be sampled for Nitrogen, Phosphorus,
heavy metals, fecal coliform and e. coli bacteria and
provided on a monthly basis.
In the letter
provided by Mr. McMahon of Synagro dated December 17, 2007,
it is stated that the facility has been permitted by DEQ and
the VDH and meets both state and federal standards. This
fact is not in question. Both of these organizations have
been monitoring the facility for compliance with state and
federal regulations however the need for a special exception
is derived from the location of the facility within a
floodplain. The state and federal standards do not address
Noted, no action
December 17, 2007 Synagro letter also states, “the biosolids
quality stored in the lagoon continues to meet the
‘exceptional quality’ standard as it pertains to trace
elements such as cadmium, nickel, lead etc.” the quality of
the material within the facility is being measured by
standards developed by the Department of Health for
biosolids not for the water quality outside of the
Noted, no action
outside operations are contributing to the storage
A list of potential
sources has been provided for informational purposes and
included under additional information, Attachment 6.
records from 2005 through October 2007 are missing.
The applicant duly notes
this and has provided the latest results. In renewing the
permit the applicant learned that the individual they had
hired was not monitoring as required. However, quarterly
results during the time frame referenced have been provided
because they were taken by Synagro’s contract lab and
submitted per State requirements.
VA DEQ, Browns Run is impaired with fecal coliform beginning
at the confluence with the unnamed tributary adjacent to
This has been duly noted
by the applicant, although it is their claim that it was
also noted by DEQ that it was the first monitoring point
upstream of the lagoon where Brown’s Run is impaired which
means it could be coming from numerous locations throughout
the watershed and not just from the unnamed stream from the
How were the
water monitoring parameters chosen? Is this a standard list
from the health department?
The monitoring parameters
meet state requirements.
limits for some samples of Lead and Cadmium were higher than
the MCL for toxicity to aquatic species; therefore these two
constituents may have been in exceedence. Each should be
measured at 2 µg/l
All lab result
summary sheets list parameters Copper, Zinc, Cadmium and
Lead in micrograms per liter ( µg/l). On the data sheets
from the lab, each of these parameters is listed in
milligrams per liter (mg/l). Which of these is correct?
the EPA MCL is 0.004 mg/l however the detection limit used
by the lab appears to be 0.01 mg/l which is too low to know
if this chemical exists of the safe limit.
The State requires all
groundwater and surface water monitoring be measured in
Synagro representatives, the pond liner was initially
installed using red clay beneath several inches of
concrete. There is no information available regarding how
the liner was installed (i.e. compacted). Several inches of
concrete have been added to the facility in recent years,
however several cracks were observed with grass growing up
specifications have been provided on the installation of the
liner and are included in Attachment 7.
representatives stated that no as-builts were available for
the pond. Fauquier County suggested that while the facility
is empty spot elevations should be taken in order to
ascertain the actual capacity.
This has been provided,
of SW-1 appears to be adjacent to the lagoon and not
upstream. In order to determine what the impact of the
lagoon is on the surface water in the area, an upstream
sample is needed. During the on-site meeting on January 8,
2008 Mr. McMahon stated that a permanent sampling location
marker will be installed adjacent to the stream.
This has been provided,
depressions were observed along the back of the dam
embankment which could be due to animal burrowing.
This has been addressed,
adjacent to the facility receives land application of
biosolids once every three years. Per state requirements,
there is a 50 foot grass strip between the area of
application and the stream.
This has been addressed,
that is collected in the facility is land applied to fields
on the property.
The stormwater is applied on
fields that are permitted for the land application of
The following Zoning Ordinance standards are
5-006 General Standards
5-1801 Standards for All Category 18 Uses in Rural
5-1806 Additional Submission Requirements for Class B
Biosolids Storage Facility
5-1807 Additional Standards for Class B Biosolids
Zoning Staff defers to
Planning Staff in the evaluation of these standards, but
would note that it does not appear that the submission
requirements of 5-1806 have been met (current permit,
insurance and authorization statement) or that 5-1807.5 has
been addressed in the submission materials provided for
Since these comments have
been received the applicant has provided the required
2. Staff notes the following special characteristics
of this facility/property:
a. It is located in the Floodplain
b. It is in Conservation Easement
c. It is
in the Southern Fauquier Agricultural and Forestal
Noted, no action
3. Staff would note
that some of the existing special exception conditions for
the use are not clear as to intent. More specifically:
#6: Insurance to
protect the public from damage or injury resulting from the
hauling or application of sludge in the amount of at least
This condition provides for
no insurance coverage for damage resulting from storage
(i.e. damage caused by a breach in the facility and
contamination of the adjoining stream).
The Zoning Ordinance
requires: “Proof that the insurance has been obtained
covering the proposed activities sufficient to protect the
public from damage and injury resulting from the hauling,
storage or application of sludge. The sufficiency of such
insurance shall have been previously approved by the
Board.” Staff has revised the condition to include damage
from storage as well.
#9: Lagoon to be used
for temporary storage only when application to land is not
Staff has no
means of assessing whether or not the applicant complies
with this condition, as no reporting is required to the
#12: Stream monitoring
program approved by State Water Control Board.
#13: Stream monitoring
to be done once a month.
Again, staff has
no way of knowing whether these conditions are met, as the
applicant provides no stream monitoring information to the
County. Further, staff understands that the conditions of
the State Water Control Board permit only require that the
water be monitored for reporting purposes only. No limits
on various contaminants appear to be set with the permit,
and the applicant has no responsibility for mitigation
should an issue arise. Given the impaired classification of
the adjoining stream, the County may wish to consider
whether to require the applicant to pay the county a fee for
independent monitoring as well as a course of required
action should an issue be identified. These requirements
could be established with the special exception.
Staff has worked with the
Engineering Division to develop stronger monitoring
conditions. It is not clear however, what actions would
take place if future monitoring revealed failure to meet all
4. The facility is
located within the floodplain in violation of Zoning
Ordinance Sections 3-323 and 4-400. A special exception to
allow the use/structure as an accessory agricultural use is
The Special Exception to
allow the use/structure as an accessory agricultural use is
part of the current request. The Zoning Administrator has
determined that this is an accessory agricultural use.
The soils on
the site are rated “not suited” to “poor” for general
development using conventional septic tank and drainfield.
The limiting factors are flooding, depth to bedrock, high
seasonal water table and high shrink – swell potential.
Soil map units that contain hydric soils or hydric soil
inclusions are present on the parcel, indicating the
possible presence of jurisdictional wetlands.
Comment noted by the
applicant; however, since no new disturbance is proposed the
comment is not applicable at this time.
Category 23, Floodplain Uses
The Engineering Department
has reviewed the above referenced Special Exception,
Category 23, to allow the operation of a biosolids storage
facility to be in compliance with the current Zoning
Ordinance. Based on the review, our office does not have
sufficient information to determine whether the floodplain
study provided accurately represents the effect of fill in
the floodplain resulting from the biosolids storage
facility. The following comments must be addressed before
an accurate representation of the floodplain analysis can be
additional information in the floodplain narrative to
include starting boundary conditions, land cover description
for the development of the Manning’s ‘n’ coefficients, and
description of methodology used to develop the hydrologic
and hydraulic analysis.
digital copy of the hydraulic model for the existing and
100-year peak discharge calculations and drainage area map
used in the hydraulic model.
existing hydraulic model upstream to a point where no
increase is shown to flood heights when compared to the
pre-developed hydraulic model.
property boundary and label the adjacent parcels with
property owner(s) and PIN.
The applicant has
resubmitted the detailed information outlined above.
Engineering has reviewed the additional information provided
by the applicant in response to their April 10, 2008,
comment letter. The floodplain study appears to be a good
representation of the impacts resulting from fill in the
floodplain. The study shows minimal increases and decreases
in the 100-year water surface elevation of no greater than
0.02 feet on the adjacent property owner (PIN:
7807-59-7038). The 100-year velocities also show minimal
increases and decreases of no greater than 0.17 feet/sec.
Based on these results, Engineering has no further comments
or conditions to bring forth regarding the Category 23