Administrative Code

Creating a Report: Check the sections you'd like to appear in the report, then use the "Create Report" button at the bottom of the page to generate your report. Once the report is generated you'll then have the option to download it as a pdf, print or email the report.

Virginia Administrative Code
Title 12. Health
Agency 5. Department Of Health
Chapter 610. Sewage Handling and Disposal Regulations
10/27/2021

12VAC5-610-950. Absorption area design.

A. The absorption area is the undisturbed soil medium utilized for absorption of the effluent. The absorption area includes the infiltrative surface in the absorption trench and the soil between and around the trenches when trenches are used.

B. Suitability of soil horizon. The absorption trench bottom shall be placed in the soil horizon or horizons with an average estimated or measured percolation rate less than 120 minutes per inch. Soil horizons are to be identified in accordance with 12VAC5-610-480. The soil horizon must meet the following minimum conditions:

1. It shall have an estimated or measured percolation rate equal to or less than 120 minutes per inch;

2. The soil horizon or horizons shall be of sufficient thickness so that at least 12 inches of absorption trench sidewall is exposed to act as an infiltrative surface; and

3. If no single horizon meets the conditions in subdivision 2 of this subsection, a combination of adjacent horizons may be utilized to provide the required 12-inch sidewall infiltrative surface. However, no horizon utilized shall have an estimated or measured percolation rate greater than 120 minutes/inch.

C. Placement of absorption trenches below soil restrictions. Placement of the soil absorption trench bottom below soil restrictions as defined in 12VAC5-610-490 D, whether or not there is evidence of a perched water table as indicated by free standing water or gray mottlings or coloration, requires a special design based on the following criteria:

1. The soil horizon into which the absorption trench bottom is placed shall be a Texture Group I, II or III soil or have an estimated or measured percolation rate of less than 91 minutes per inch.

2. The soil horizon shall be a minimum of three feet thick and shall exhibit no characteristics that indicate wetness on restriction of water movement. The absorption trench bottom shall be placed so that at least two feet of the soil horizon separates the trench bottom from the water table or rock. At least one foot of the absorption trench side wall shall penetrate the soil horizon.

3. A lateral ground water movement interceptor (LGMI) shall be placed upslope of the absorption area. The LGMI shall be placed perpendicular to the general slope of the land. The invert of the LGMI shall extend into, but not through, the restriction and shall extend for a distance of 10 feet on either side of the absorption area (See 12VAC5-610-700 D 3).

4. Pits shall be constructed to facilitate soil evaluations as necessary.

D. Sizing of absorption trench area.

1. Required area. The total absorption trench bottom area required shall be based on the average estimated or measured percolation rate for the soil horizon or horizons into which the absorption trench is to be placed. If more than one soil horizon is utilized to meet the sidewall infiltrative surface required in subsection B of this section, the absorption trench bottom area shall be based on the average estimated or measured percolation rate of the "slowest" horizon. The trench bottom area required in square feet per 100 gallons (Ft²/100 Gals) of sewage applied for various soil percolation rates is tabulated in Table 5.4. The area requirements are based on the equation:

log y = 2.00 + 0.008 (x)

where y = Ft²/100 Gals

x = Percolation rate in minutes/inch

Notwithstanding the above, the minimum absorption area for single family residential dwellings shall be 400 square feet.

2. Area reduction. See Table 5.4 for area reduction when gravelless material or low pressure distribution is utilized. A reduction in area shall not be permitted when flow diversion is utilized with low pressure distribution. When gravelless material is utilized, the design width of the trench shall be used to calculate minimum area requirements for absorption trenches.

E. Minimum cross section dimensions for absorption trenches.

1. Depth. The minimum trench sidewall depth as measured from the surface of the mineral soil shall be 12 inches when placed in a landscape with a slope less than 10%. The installation depth shall be measured on the downhill side of the absorption trench. When the installation depth is less than 18 inches, the depth shall be measured from the lowest elevation in the microtopography. All systems shall be provided with at least 12 inches of cover to prevent frost penetration and provide physical protection to the absorption trench; however, this requirement for additional cover shall not apply to systems installed on slopes of 30% or greater. Where additional soil cover must be provided to meet this minimum, it must be added prior to construction of the absorption field, and it must be crowned to provide positive drainage away from the absorption field. The minimum trench depth shall be increased by at least five inches for every 10% increase in slope. Sidewall depth is measured from the ground surface on the downhill side of the trench.

2. Width. All absorption trenches utilized with gravity distribution shall have a width of from 18 inches to 36 inches. All absorption trenches utilized with low pressure distribution shall have a width of eight inches to 24 inches.

F. Lateral separation of absorption trenches. The absorption trenches shall be separated by a center to center distance no less than three times the width of the trench for slopes up to 10%. However, where trench bottoms are two feet or more above rock, pans and impervious strata, the absorption trenches shall be separated by a center to center distance no less than three times the width of the trench for slopes up to 20%. The minimum horizontal separation distance shall be increased by one foot for every 10% increase in slope. In no case shall the center to center distance be less than 30 inches.

G. Slope of absorption trench bottoms.

1. Gravity distribution. The bottom of each absorption trench shall have a uniform slope not less than two inches or more than four inches per 100 feet.

2. Low pressure distribution. The bottom of each absorption trench shall be uniformly level to prevent ponding of effluent.

H. Placement of absorption trenches in the landscape.

1. The absorption trenches shall be placed on contour.

2. When the ground surface in the area over the absorption trenches is at a higher elevation than any plumbing fixture or fixtures, sewage from the plumbing fixture or fixtures shall be pumped.

I. Lateral ground water movement interceptors. Where subsurface, laterally moving water is expected to adversely affect an absorption system, a lateral ground water movement interceptor (LGMI) shall be placed upslope of the absorption area. The LGMI shall be placed perpendicular to the general slope of the land. The invert of the LGMI shall extend into, but not through, the restriction and shall extend for a distance of 10 feet on either side of the absorption area.

Table 5.4.
Area Requirements for Absorption Trenches.

Percolation Rate
(Minutes/Inch)

Area Required
(Ft2/100 Gals)

Area Required
(Ft2/Bedroom)

Gravity

Gravity Gravelless

Low Pressure
Distribution

Gravity

Gravity Gravelless

Low Pressure
Distribution

5

110

83

110

165

124

165

10

120

90

120

180

135

180

15

132

99

132

198

149

198

20

146

110

146

218

164

218

25

158

119

158

237

178

237

30

174

131

164

260

195

255

35

191

143

170

286

215

260

40

209

157

176

314

236

264

45

229

172

185

344

258

279

50

251

188

193

376

282

293

55

275

206

206

412

309

309

60

302

227

217

452

339

325

65

331

248

228

496

372

342

70

363

272

240

544

408

359

75

398

299

251

596

447

375

80

437

328

262

656

492

394

85

479

359

273

718

539

409

90

525

394

284

786

590

424

95

575

489

288

862

733

431

100

631

536

316

946

804

473

105

692

588

346

1038

882

519

110

759

645

379

1138

967

569

115

832

707

416

1248

1061

624

120

912

775

456

1368

1163

684

J. Controlled blasting. When rock or rock outcroppings are encountered during construction of absorption trenches the rock may be removed by blasting in a sequential manner from the top to remove the rock. Percolation piping and sewer lines shall be placed so that at least one foot of compacted clay soil lies beneath and on each side of the pipe where the pipe passes through the area blasted. The area blasted shall not be considered as part of the required absorption area.

Statutory Authority

§§ 32.1-12, 32.1-164, and 32.1-164.9 of the Code of Virginia.

Historical Notes

Derived from VR355-34-02 § 4.29, 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.

Website addresses provided in the Virginia Administrative Code to documents incorporated by reference are for the reader's convenience only, may not necessarily be active or current, and should not be relied upon. To ensure the information incorporated by reference is accurate, the reader is encouraged to use the source document described in the regulation.

As a service to the public, the Virginia Administrative Code is provided online by the Virginia General Assembly. We are unable to answer legal questions or respond to requests for legal advice, including application of law to specific fact. To understand and protect your legal rights, you should consult an attorney.