Board of Supervisors Meeting Date:

R. Holder Trumbo, Jr., Chairman, Scott District Supervisor 

August 13, 2009

Staff Lead: 
Jim Sawyer, County Soil Scientist

Community Development



An Ordinance to Amend Chapter 17 of the Fauquier County Code


Topic Description:

Chapter 17 of the County Code was adopted in 1973. Although it was amended in 1978, 1988, 1991 and 1994, Article I still retains most of its original content and form.  Many of the requirements are counter to current State regulations, primarily the Sewage Handling and Disposal Regulations. Article I also does not acknowledge current technologies and practices of environmentally safe on-site sewage treatment and disposal.  The attached revision of Chapter 17 Article I is a substantial revision, bringing Article 1 into compliance with State Regulations, protecting public health and safety and addressing current technologies.  The revision has been produced as a complete rewrite and is not conducive to a line-in line out analysis.  A copy of the current ordinance is also attached.

The revision was produced through the efforts of a working committee composed of a sewage system installer, staff from three soil consulting firms, Health Department staff and the County Soil Scientist Office staff.  It has been review and revised by the management staff of the Community Development Department and the County Attorney.

An additional amendment to Chapter 17, unrelated to the technical update described above, is also included for Board consideration.  It would clear a gray area in Chapter 17 concerning drainfields and residue parcels.  Specifically, it would clarify that the reserve drainfield requirement applies to the residue parcel when a new lot or lots are created.   This requirement has been inconsistently, and in fact rarely, applied over the years.  The rationale for requiring that a residue lotís reserve drainfield meets current standards is based on health and safety.  If a drainfield was installed long ago, it likely that the reserve area does not meet current standards and the property may not even have a reserve drainfield.  If such a lot is subdivided, and in the future the existing drainfield fails, there may be no ability to remedy the situation on-site. 

Requiring that residue lots meet the countyís current reserve drainfield standards will require additional analysis of the residue parcel, which will increase costs to the applicant. Additionally in some instances lack of available reserve area may preclude the proposed subdivision.  It is likely that some divisions will no longer be allowed if the countyís current reserve drainfield standard is required of residue parcels.

Examples of out-dated and nonconformance of current Article I with the State Regulations include:

  • Allowing construction of building sewers and leach lines of bituminous fiber pipe when Virginia Department of Health (VDH) regulations do not allow these;
  • Allowing metal septic tanks when VDH regulations do not allow these; and
  • Basing leach line trench spacing solely on trench width when VDH regulations also require an adjustment to trench spacing based on slope.

Major Changes to Chapter 17 Article I include:

  1. Adoption of the State's Sewage Disposal and Handling Regulations;
  2. Adding, removing and changing definitions;
  3. Defining evidence of "approved method of disposal of sewage"  as a valid Operation Permit from VDH.
  4. When within 300 feet of sanitary sewer :

a)      waiver of connection may be granted jointly by the Water and Sewer Authority (WSA) and the Community Development Department in cases of undue hardship;

b)      cannot connect to sanitary sewer when outside of sewered portion of the service districts except as a last resort to repair an existing, failing drainfield;

c)      allows small users (less than 900 gal/day) to apply for a Special Permit, rather than a Special Exception, to install an individual sewage disposal system when the sewer treatment plant does not have sufficient capacity to allow the connection of the building to sanitary sewer.

  1. Requiring final plats to have a statement that drainfield must be surrounded by safety fence prior to land disturbance.
  2. Requiring applications to VDH for a construction permit for an alternative system to include a site grading plan with 2-foot contour topographic information.
  3. Requiring a soil consultant to be both a Certified Professional Soil Scientist (CPSS) and an Authorized On-site Soil Evaluator (AOSE).
  4. Limiting VDH Construction Permits to 2 renewals.
  5. Requiring CPSS/AOSE to propose a traditional (conventional) system if it is possible.  If not possible, CPSS/AOSE must supply a statement explaining why it is not possible and why an alternative system must be used.
  6. Adding setback requirements for stormwater management facilities and abandoned wells.
  7. Limiting drainfield installation to slopes less than or equal to 25 percent.
  8. Prohibiting installation of drainfields in FEMA 100 year floodplains.
  9. Eliminating the requirement that an applicant must apply for a Special Exception prior to contacting any other agency concerning application for a discharging sewage system.
  10. Requiring the house, well and drainfield to be staked prior to a level 2 evaluation (evaluate site and soils in the field) by VDH and/or the County Soil Scientist Office staff.
  11. Requiring a level 2 evaluation by the County Soil Scientist Office and VDH prior to approval of the Preliminary Plan.
  12. Requiring safety fencing of drainfields, verified by the County Soil Scientist Office, prior to issuance of the land disturbing permit.
  13. Requiring septic system installers to have a Class B SDS Contractor's license (Class A for mass drainfield) and increases the bonding requirement from $1000 to $50,000.
  14. Requiring septic tank cleaners to transport the sludge to a sewage treatment plant or other approved facilities.  The raw sludge is not allowed to be land-applied.
  15. Removing all design criteria and specifications for individual sewage disposal systems, since many are counter to current VDH regulations.

The proposed changes to Chapter 17 Article I will result in changes to the Subdivision Ordinance,  the Zoning Ordinance and Chapter 17 Article II.  The Board will be asked to initiate these changes when revisions to Chapter 17 Section I are adopted.


Requested Action of the Board of Supervisors:
Conduct a public hearing and consider adoption of the attached Ordinance. 

Financial Impact Analysis:
No financial impact analysis has been conducted. 

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

Fauquier County Office of the Virginia Department of Health
Consulting Engineers
Soil Consultants
Land Developers
Land Owners


Current Chapter 17 Articles I and II

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