Board of Supervisors Meeting Date: 

Sulphur Springs Investment Corporation 

August 13, 2009

Staff Lead:


Melissa Dargis, Assistant Chief of Planning

Community Development


Magisterial District:                                                                                                                PIN:

Service District: None


A Resolution to Approve SPEX09-MA-020: Applicant Wishes to Obtain a Category 20 Special Exception to Upgrade and Replace an Existing Wastewater Treatment Plant 


Topic Description:

The applicant is proposing to replace an existing wastewater treatment facility, per Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) request.  The existing lagoon is suspected of leaking and contaminating surface groundwater quality.  This system is permitted to treat 20,000 gallons per day (gpd).

The new system proposed to replace the existing lagoon is an extended aeration treatment facility.  The new facility would consist of inground steel tanks (for treatment) and would be secured with perimeter fencing.  The system would remain a discharge system and utilize the same discharge point in the Rappahannock River that the lagoon system uses.  (See Attachment 2).  Once the new treatment works are completed and placed in service, the lagoon would be dewatered through the new treatment plant, the residual sludge in the lagoon would be lime stabilized, and the facility would be backfilled and landscaped.  The facility is intended to serve the club house and existing residences that use the system.  The wastewater facility would operate continuously and would have 1-2 operators visit the plant per day.  A Class IV Wastewater Operator is required for operation and maintenance of the plant. 

The new system would be located out of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) 100-year floodplain and it would be located directly adjacent to the existing treatment lagoon.  It would connect to the existing inflow and outflow lines of the lagoon, bypassing the existing facility.  This location, in close proximity to the existing treatment works, minimizes the extent of the disturbed area, reduces the overall earthwork and erosion control impacts, and helps facilitate the abandonment of the existing lagoon.

Although the existing treatment works is rated at 20,000 gpd, the actual wastewater flows are much lower.  The average monthly flow for 2007 (the most recent data provided) was 2,093 gpd; the maximum monthly flow was 3,480 gpd.  According to the applicant’s engineer, these values likely overstate the actual flows because they are based on a single daily staff gauge reading, usually taken in the morning.  The engineer indicated that this value does not include the amount of wastewater leaking out of the unlined lagoon, which may be as much as several hundred gallons per day. 

There are currently four residential lots, with daily flow of approximately 250 gpd per unit, connected into the system.  These lots are zoned Village (V) and contain single family dwelling units.  They are the following PINs: 6962-12-9262 (1.11 acres); 6962-22-0749 (.8281 acre); and 6962-22-0674 (.9319 acre) and 6962-22-1457 (acreage is unlisted in tax records, but the lot is similar in size to adjacent lots which are approximately 1 acre in size).  Discharge systems are not allowed for new residential lots or construction of a new house on an existing lot; therefore, no new houses will be allowed to connect to this facility.   

The existing system was installed in 1968.  It is an unlined cell aerated lagoon that was constructed as a sewage stabilization pond.  Since it is an unlined facility, DEQ required that a groundwater monitoring program be implemented in 1993.  In 1994, three monitoring wells were installed; one upgrade and two down gradient.  Quarterly reports since that time have consistently shown that there is a plume of contaminated near surface groundwater that flows from the lagoon southeasterly toward the Rappahannock River.

In 1999, DEQ required that a groundwater corrective action plan (CAP) be prepared for the facility.  The original plan proposed lining the lagoon while retaining it in service by broadcasting palletized bentonite at a very high application rate.  Once this was complete, monthly monitoring would be done to see if the application was successful.  If this was not successful, it could be repeated until the water down gradient of the lagoon was no longer contaminated.  However, after an on-site visit by DEQ personnel, DEQ determined that due to the vegetation on the perimeter of the pond and the accumulation of twenty years of sludge, the bentonite seal may not be effective, even with an additional application.  The alternative was to construct a new extended aeration treatment facility and abandon the lagoon system.

The applicant is requesting that the new facility be authorized for a total treatment capacity of 20,000 gpd.  Based on the past history of the average monthly use, leakage in the unlined lagoon, and maximum monthly gpd, staff would recommend that the system be sized to accommodate 10,000 gpd to serve the country club facilities and four (4) existing residential units. 


Location,  Zoning and Current Land Use:

The parcel is located at 9236 Tournament Drive.  It is approximately 198 acres and is zoned Rural Agricultural (RA) and Village (V).   

Surrounding Zoning and Current Land Use:

Properties in this area are generally zoned RA and are in agricultural use; the eastern side is zoned Village and is in the Village of Fauquier Springs.  Properties in the village are residential and commercial.  The RA lands to the north and east of the property are in conservation easements.  The Rappahannock River and Culpeper County create the western boundary.  Maps of the parcel are shown below.

Fauquier Springs Country Club Zoning Map


Fauquier Springs Country Club Floodplain Map

Comprehensive Plan/Land Use:

The Comprehensive Plan locates this parcel partially in the Village of Fauquier Springs. The village has a long history, much of which is centered around the county club, which was previously a health spa and hotel (Fauquier White Sulphur Springs Resort).  The Comprehensive Plan notes that “The 1914 Map of Fauquier County reveals a number of residences along Opal Road that still remain today as defining historic features of the Village of Fauquier Springs.”  

Site Suitability/Environment:

The site contains poor conditions for septic development due to the soil types and the significant FEMA 100-year floodplain on the property.

Special Exception Analysis:

The applicant has met the requirements of the Zoning Ordinance Section 5-006, General Standards for Special Exception Uses.  General standards for all Special Exceptions require that the proposed use will not adversely affect the use or development of neighboring properties, will not conflict with existing traffic, and other such criteria to protect the surrounding environment.  In this case, the proposed replacement and upgrade of an existing waste water treatment plant, will not cause degradation of the surrounding area or add traffic.  It will improve the environmental quality of the area.

The following applicable standards were also used to evaluate this project:

PART 20                                5-2000             CATEGORY 20 PUBLIC UTILITIES

5-2001                         Additional Submission Requirements

In addition to the submission requirements set forth in Section 011 above, all applications for Category 20 uses shall be accomplished by the following:

1.   Four (4) copies of a map showing the utility system of which the proposed use will be an integral part, together with a written statement outlining the functional relationship of the proposed use to the utility system.

2.   Four (4) copies of a statement, prepared by a certified engineer, giving the basic reasons for selecting the particular site as the location for the proposed facility and certifying that the proposed use will meet the performance standards of the district in which located.

The applicant has met the aforementioned criteria with its submittal materials. The Special Exception Plat shows the functional relationship of the proposed replacement wastewater treatment plant and discharge to the existing discharge point in the Rappahannock River.

5-2002                         Standards for All Category 20 Uses

In addition to the general standards set forth in Section 006 above, all Category 20 special permit and special exception uses shall satisfy the following standards:

1.      Category 20 special permit and special exception uses shall not be required to comply with the lot size requirements or the bulk regulations set forth for the zoning district in which located in Part 4 of Article 3.  However, such requirements may be established in the conditions under which such a special permit or special exception is granted.

Not applicable to the project.

2.      No land or building in any district other than the Industrial Districts shall be used for the storage of materials or equipment, or for the repair or servicing of vehicles or equipment or for the parking of vehicles, except those needed by employees connected with the operation of the immediate facility.

Not applicable to the project.

3.      In all zoning districts, other than the I-2 District, all equipment, machinery and facilities not located within an enclosed building shall be effectively screened.

Not applicable to the project.

4.      If the proposed location of a Category 20 use is in a Residential  District there shall be a finding that there is no more suitable site available for such use in a Commercial or Industrial District, except that in the case of electric transformer stations and telephone and telegraph exchanges or dial centers, there shall be a finding that there is no alternative site available in a Commercial or Industrial District within distance of one mile, unless there is a substantial showing that it is impractical for satisfactory service to be rendered from an available location in such Commercial or Industrial District.

Not applicable to the project.

Staff and Review Agency Comments:


1.   The applicant proposes to replace an existing sewage treatment system.   According to the applicant’s engineer, the original system was built as an unaerated sewage stabilization pond in 1968.  In 1968, the Zoning Ordinance would not have required a special exception for such a system.  However, under the current regulations, the system would be classified as a “Sewage Treatment System” pursuant to Section 3-320.7 of the Zoning Ordinance, requiring special exception and site plan approval and conformance with the standards for special exceptions set forth in Section 5-2002.     

Pursuant to Section 10-101.2 of the Zoning Ordinance, because this sewage system existed as of the adoption of the current Ordinance in 1981 and is now allowed by the Ordinance with approval of a special exception, the sewage system is not considered a non-conforming use.  However, the section requires that any subsequent replacement or expansion or construction of buildings associated with the use require a special exception compliant with the existing regulations.    Hence, the proposed replacement of the sewage treatment facility at the Country Club requires special exception approval, and the following standards are applicable:

a.   5-006 General Standards for all Special Exceptions

b.   5-2001 Additional Submission Requirements for Category 20 Uses

c.   5-2002 Standards for All Category 20 Uses.

See aforementioned Special Exception Analysis for these standards.

2.   The existing Zoning Ordinance regulations do not allow the use of an off-site system or a discharge system, except that discharge may be allowed by special exception in the case of a failing drainfield posing a real or potential health threat (5-2002.5).   While houses may have been allowed to connect to the system in the past, under existing regulations no lots may be created based upon a connection to the system and no new houses or other buildings may be connected to the system.  A condition to this effect should be added to the special exception for clarification.

A Special Exception condition to this effect has been drafted.

3.   Staff would note that the requested size of the system, 20,000 gallons, seems excessive.  Given that the engineer for the applicant has indicated that the existing use is approximately 3,000-4,500 gallons per day, and that no new lots or houses may connect to the system, and that no expansion of facilities at the Country Club may occur without approval of a separate special exception for the County Club Use, a 20,000 gallon system serves no purpose.

A Special Exception condition to this effect has been drafted.


Technical Division

The Technical Division has reviewed the plans for the above referenced project sealed on May 15, 2009 by E. R. Sutherland, P.E. The following issues are to be addressed prior to plan approval.

Engineering –

1.   No comment.

Please be advised the existing lagoon exceeds 10,000 square feet surface area. As a result, the applicant will be required to obtain a land disturbance permit that includes an erosion and sediment control plan prior to backfilling and landscaping the existing lagoon.

Information for the applicant.

Erosion & Sediment Control –  

1. No comment.

Planning Commission Summary and Action of June 25, 2009:

The Planning Commission discussed this item at its work session.  The applicant provided additional information on the wastewater seeping from the unlined lagoon that indicated a 10,000 gpd system was needed.  The Special Exception conditions were amended to reflect that size system.  A public hearing was held on the application.  The application was forwarded with a unanimous recommendation for approval, subject to a series of development conditions.

Summary and Recommendation:

The applicant is requesting to replace an existing wastewater treatment facility per a DEQ corrective action plan.  Staff concurs that the new system is an effective alternative to the existing leaking lagoon structure.  Staff recommends 10,000 gpd for this system.  It will support the average monthly use, accommodate the wastewater lost to seepage in the unlined lagoon, and provide wastewater treatment for the country club and the four (4) existing residences.


Requested Action of the Board of Supervisors: 

Conduct a public hearing and consider adoption of the attached resolution


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

Citizens of Fauquier County



1.         Statement of Justification

2.         Special Exception Plat


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