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Virginia Administrative Code
Title 12. Health
Agency 5. Department of Health
Chapter 610. Sewage Handling and Disposal Regulations

12VAC5-610-930. Gravity distribution.

Gravity distribution is the conveyance of effluent from a distribution box through the percolation lines at less than full flow conditions. Flow to the initial distribution box may be initiated by pump, siphon or gravity.

A. Enhanced flow distribution. Enhanced flow distribution is the initiation of the effluent flow to the distribution box by pump or siphon for the purpose of assuring more uniform flow splitting to the percolation lines. Enhanced flow distribution shall be provided on systems where the flow is split more than 12 times or the system contains more than 1200 linear feet of percolation lines. For the purpose of this chapter, enhanced flow distribution is considered to produce unsaturated soil conditions.

B. System size. Distribution systems containing 1800 or more linear feet of percolation piping shall be split into multiple systems containing a maximum of 1200 linear feet of percolation piping per system.

C. Distribution boxes. The distribution box is a device for splitting flow equally by gravity to points in the system. Improperly installed distribution boxes are a cause for absorption field malfunction.

1. Materials. The preferred material for use in constructing distribution boxes is concrete (3000 psi). Other materials may be considered on a case-by-case basis. All materials must be resistant to both chemical and electrolytic corrosion and must have sufficient structural strength to contain sewage and resist lateral compressive and bearing loads.

2. Design. Each distribution box shall be designed to split the influent flow equally among the multiple effluent ports. All effluent ports shall be at the same elevation and be of the same diameter. The elevation of the effluent ports shall be at a lower elevation than the influent port. The placement of the influent ports shall be such as to prevent short circuiting unless baffling is provided to prevent short circuiting. The minimum inside width of a gravity flow distribution box shall be equal to or greater than 12 inches. The inside bottom shall be at least four inches below the invert of the effluent ports and at least five inches below the invert of the influent port. A minimum of eight inches freeboard above the invert of the effluent piping shall be provided. The distribution box shall be fitted with a watertight, removable lid for access.

3. Installation. The hole for placement of the distribution box shall be excavated to undisturbed soil. The distribution box shall be placed in the excavation and stabilized. The preferred method of stabilizing the distribution box is to bond the distribution box to a four inch poured in place Portland cement concrete pad with dimensions six inches greater than the length and width dimensions of the distribution box. The box shall be permanently leveled and checked by water testing. Conduits passing through the walls of a distribution box shall be provided with a water stop.

D. Lead or header lines. Header or lead lines are watertight, semirigid, or rigid lines that convey effluent from a distribution box to another box or to the percolation piping.

1. Size. The lead or header lines shall have an internal diameter of four inches.

2. Slope. Minimum slope shall be two inches per 100 feet.

3. Materials. The lead or header lines shall have a minimum crush strength of 1500 pounds per foot and may be constructed of cast iron, plastic, vitrified clay, or other material resistant to the corrosive action of sewage.

4. Appurtenances.

a. Joints. Lead or header lines shall have joints of the compressions type with the exception of plastic lead or header lines that may be welded sleeve, chemically fused, or clamped (noncorrosive) flexible sleeve.

b. Adapters. Joining of lead or header lines of different size or material shall be accomplished by use of a manufactured adapter specifically designed for the purpose.

c. Valves. Valves shall be constructed of materials resistant to the corrosive action of sewage. Valves placed below ground level shall be provided with a valve box and a suitable valve stem so that it may be operated from the ground surface.

5. Construction.

a. Bedding. All lead or header lines shall be bedded to supply uniform support and maintain grade and alignment along the length of the lead or header lines. Special care shall be taken when using semirigid pipe.

b. Backfilling and tamping. Lead and header lines shall be backfilled and tamped as soon as possible after the installation of the lead or header lines has been approved. Material for backfilling shall be free of large stones and debris.

6. Termination. Header or lead lines shall extend for a minimum distance of two feet into the absorption trenches.

E. Gravity percolation lines. Gravity percolation lines are perforated or open joint pipes that are utilized to distribute the effluent along the length of the absorption trenches.

1. Size. All gravity percolation lines shall have an internal diameter of four inches.

2. Slope. The slope of the lines shall be uniform and shall not be less than two inches or more than four inches per 100 feet.

3. Design. Effluent shall be split by the distribution system so that all gravity percolation lines installed shall receive an equal volume of the total design effluent load per square foot of trench, i.e., the fraction of the flow received by each percolation line divided by the length of the gravity percolation lines shall be equal for all gravity percolation lines in a system.

4. Length. No individual gravity percolation line shall exceed 100 feet in length.

5. Materials.

a. Clay. Clay tile shall be extra-strength and meet current ASTM standards for clay tile.

b. Perforated plastic drainage tubing. Perforated plastic drainage tubing shall meet ASTM standards. At not greater than 10 feet intervals the pipe shall be plainly marked, embossed, or engraved thereby showing the manufacturer's name or hallmark and showing that the product meets a bearing load of 1,000 lb. per foot. In addition, a painted or other clearly marked line or spot shall be marked at not greater than 10 feet intervals to denote the top of the pipe.

The tubing shall have three holes, 1/2 to 3/4 inch in diameter evenly spaced and placed within an arc of 130 degrees, the center hole being directly opposite the top marking.

Spacing of each set of three holes shall be at four inch intervals along the tube. If there is any break in the continuity of the tubing, an appropriate connection shall be used to join the tubing.

6. Installation.

a. Crushed stone or gravel. Clean gravel or crushed stone having a size range from 1/2 inch to 1-1/2 inches shall be utilized to bed the gravity percolation lines.

Minimum depth of gravel or crushed stone beneath the percolation lines shall be six inches. Clean course silica sand (does not effervesce in presence of dilute hydrochloric acid) may be substituted for the first two inches (soil interface) of the required six inches of gravel beneath the percolation lines. The absorption trench shall be backfilled to a depth of two inches over the gravity percolation lines with the same gravel or crushed stone. Clean sand, gravel, or crushed stone shall be free of fines, clay, and organic materials.

b. Grade boards or stakes. Grade boards or stakes placed in the bottom or sidewalls of the absorption trench shall be utilized to maintain the grade on the gravel for placement of the gravity percolation lines. Grade stakes shall not be placed on centers greater than 10 feet.

c. Placement and alignment. Perforated gravity percolation piping shall be placed so that the center hole is in the horizontal plane and interfaces with the minimum six inches of graded gravel. When open joint piping is utilized the upper half of the top of the 1/4-inch open space shall be covered with tar paper or building paper to block the entrance of fines into the pipe during the backfilling operation. All gravity percolating piping shall be placed in the horizontal center of the absorption trench and shall maintain a straight alignment and uniform grade.

d. Backfilling. After the placement of the gravity percolation piping the absorption trench shall be backfilled evenly with crushed stone or gravel to a depth of two inches over the piping. Untreated building paper or other suitable material shall be placed at the interface of the gravel and soil to prevent migration of fines to the trench bottom. The remainder of the trench shall be backfilled with soil to the ground surface.

F. Gravelless material is a proprietary product specifically manufactured to disperse effluent within the absorption trench of an onsite sewage system without the use of gravel. Gravelless material may include chamber, bundled expanded polystyrene, and multi-pipe systems. The division shall maintain a list of all generally approved gravelless material. Gravelless material on the generally approved list may be used in accordance with Table 5.4 of 12VAC5-610-950.

1. Gravelless material that received general approval as of December 12, 2013, shall retain such status when used in accordance with the requirements of this chapter. After December 12, 2013, the division shall review and evaluate new applications for general approval pursuant to the requirements of this chapter.

a. Any manufacturer of gravelless material may submit an application for general approval to the division using a form provided by the division. A complete application shall include the manufacturer's contact information, product specifications, product approvals in other states or territories, installation manual, and other information deemed necessary by the division to determine compliance with this chapter.

b. The manufacturer of gravelless material shall identify in the application for general approval any recommendation that deviates from the requirements of this chapter. If the recommendation is approved by the division, then the manufacturer shall include the deviation in the gravelless material's installation manual.

2. Gravelless material shall have the following minimum characteristics for general approval:

a. The minimum exterior width shall be at least 90% of the total width of the absorption trench. The exterior width of a chamber system shall be measured at the edge or outer limit of the product's contact with the trench bottom unless the division determines a different measurement is required based on the gravelless material's design. The exterior width of bundled expanded polystyrene and multi-pipe systems shall be measured using the outside diameter of the bundled gravelless material unless the division determines a different measurement is required based on the gravelless material's design. The division shall establish the exterior width of any gravelless material that is not considered a chamber, bundled expanded polystyrene, or multi-pipe system.

b. Gravelless material shall have a minimum height of eight inches to provide a continuous exchange of air through a permeable interface.

c. Gravelless material shall have a permeable interface that shall be located along the trench bottom and trench sidewalls within the absorption trench.

d. Gravelless material shall provide a minimum storage capacity of 1.3 gallons per square foot of trench bottom area.

e. Gravelless material shall pose no greater risk to surface water and groundwater quality than gravel in absorption trenches. Gravelless material shall be constructed to maintain structural integrity such that it does not decay or corrode when exposed to effluent.

f. Gravelless material shall have a minimum load rating of H-10 or H-20 from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials or equivalent when installed in accordance with the manufacturer's specifications and minimum specified depth of cover in nontraffic or traffic areas, respectively.

3. For designs using gravelless material, the absorption trenches shall receive an equal volume of effluent per square foot of trench. Trench bottom area shall be equal to or greater than the minimum area requirements contained in Table 5.4 or Table 5.5 of 12VAC5-610-950. Trench sidewall shall not be included when determining minimum area requirements. When open-bottom gravelless material is utilized, it shall provide a splash plate at the inlet of the trench or other suitable method approved by the manufacturer to reduce effluent velocity.

4. Installation of gravelless material shall comply with this chapter and the approved installation manual unless the department grants a deviation pursuant to 12VAC5-610-660 or the division has granted a deviation identified in the installation manual.

5. Gravelless material shall contain a pressure percolation line along the entire length of the trench when low pressure distribution is utilized pursuant to 12VAC5-610-940 D.

6. When pumping effluent to overcome gravity, any open-bottom gravelless material shall provide a high-flow splash plate at the inlet of the trench or other suitable method approved by the manufacturer to reduce effluent velocity.

7. When enhanced flow distribution is used, open-bottom gravelless material shall contain a percolation pipe that extends a minimum of 10 feet from the trench's intersection with the header line. The percolation pipe shall be installed in accordance with the manufacturer's approved installation manual. The dosing volume shall be a minimum 39 gallons per 100 linear feet of absorption trench.

8. Gravelless material may be substituted for gravel in accordance with this chapter, provided that the certifying licensed professional engineer or onsite soil evaluator approves the substitution. The certifying licensed professional engineer or onsite soil evaluator shall document the substitution and related design changes on the inspection report submitted in accordance with 12VAC5-610-330. A new construction permit pursuant to 12VAC5-610-310 is not required for the substitution.

Statutory Authority

§§ 32.1-12 and 32.1-164 of the Code of Virginia.

Historical Notes

Derived from VR355-34-02 § 4.28, eff. February 5, 1986; amended, eff. May 11, 1988; Virginia Register Volume 16, Issue 16, eff. July 1, 2000; Volume 32, Issue 24, eff. August 25, 2016; Volume 39, Issue 4, eff. November 24, 2022.

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