Administrative Code

Virginia Administrative Code
6/25/2022

Part I. General

12VAC5-613-10. Definitions.

The following words and terms used in this chapter shall have the following meanings. Terms not defined in this chapter shall have the meanings prescribed in Chapter 6 (§ 32.1-163 et seq.) of Title 32.1 of the Code of Virginia or in 12VAC5-610 unless the plain reading of the language requires a different meaning.

"Alternative onsite sewage system," "AOSS," or "alternative onsite system" means a treatment works that is not a conventional onsite sewage system and does not result in a point source discharge.

"Best management practice" means a conservation or pollution control practice approved by the division, such as wastewater treatment units, shallow effluent dispersal fields, saturated or unsaturated soil zones, or vegetated buffers, that manages nutrient losses or other potential pollutant sources to minimize pollution of water resources.

"Biochemical oxygen demand, five-day" or "BOD5" means the quantitative measure of the amount of oxygen consumed by bacteria while stabilizing, digesting, or treating biodegradable organic matter under aerobic conditions over a five-day incubation period; BOD5 is expressed in milligrams per liter (mg/l).

"Board" means the State Board of Health.

"Chesapeake Bay Watershed" means the following Virginia river basins: Potomac River Basin (see 9VAC25-260-390 and 9VAC25-260-400), James River Basin (see 9VAC25-260-410, 9VAC25-260-415, 9VAC25-260-420, and 9VAC25-260-430), Rappahannock River Basin (see 9VAC25-260-440), Chesapeake Bay and small coastal basins (see 9VAC25-260-520, Section 2 through Section 3g), and the York River Basin (see 9VAC25-260-530).

"Conventional onsite sewage system" means a treatment works consisting of one or more septic tanks with gravity, pumped, or siphoned conveyance to a gravity distributed subsurface drainfield.

"Department" means the Virginia Department of Health.

"Direct dispersal of effluent to ground water" means less than six inches of vertical separation between ground water and the point of effluent application or the bottom of an effluent-dispersal trench or other excavation. Other excavation excludes the following: minor tillage of the soil surface without soil removal; replacement of fill material with better quality fill material as determined by the department to improve the ability of the site to treat wastewater; house foundations; tank excavations; force main and header line excavations; and soil disturbances, including preexisting drainfields installed prior to July 17, 2017, that are not designed for surface or ground water drainage, and do not create a direct conduit to ground water.

"Disinfection" means a process used to destroy or inactivate pathogenic microorganisms in wastewater to render them non-infectious.

"Dissolved oxygen" or "DO" means the concentration of oxygen dissolved in effluent, expressed in mg/l or as percent saturation, where saturation is the maximum amount of oxygen that can theoretically be dissolved in water at a given altitude and temperature.

"Division" means the Division of Onsite Sewage and Water Services, Environmental Engineering, and Marina Programs within the department.

"Effluent" means sewage that has undergone treatment.

"General approval" means that a treatment unit has been evaluated in accordance with the requirements of this chapter and 12VAC5-610 and approved for TL-2 or TL-3 in accordance with this chapter.

"GPD/sf" means gallons per day per square foot.

"Ground water" means any water, except capillary moisture, beneath the land surface in the zone of saturation or beneath the bed of any stream, lake, reservoir, or other body of surface water wholly or partially within the boundaries of this Commonwealth, whatever the subsurface geologic structure in which such water stands, flows, percolates, or otherwise occurs. Ground water includes a seasonal or perched water table.

"High-level disinfection" means a disinfection method that results in a fecal coliform concentration less than or equal to 2.2 colonies/100 ml. Chlorine disinfection requires a minimum total residual chlorine (TRC) concentration at the end of a 30 minute contact time of 1.5 mg/l. Ultraviolet disinfection requires a minimum dose of 50,000 μW-sec/cm2. Influent turbidity to the disinfection unit shall be less than or equal to 2 Nephelometric turbidity units (NTU) on average.

"Ksat" means saturated hydraulic conductivity.

"Large AOSS" means an AOSS that serves more than three attached or detached single-family residences with a combined average daily sewage flow greater than 1,000 GPD or a structure with an average daily sewage flow in excess of 1,000 GPD.

"Limiting feature" means a feature of the soil that limits or intercepts the vertical movement of water, including seasonal, perched or permanent water table, pans, soil restrictions, and pervious or impervious bedrock.

"Local health department" means the local health department having jurisdiction over the AOSS.

"Maintenance" means performing adjustments to equipment and controls and in-kind replacement of normal wear and tear parts such as light bulbs, fuses, filters, pumps, motors, or other like components. Maintenance includes pumping the tanks or cleaning the building sewer on a periodic basis. Maintenance shall not include replacement of tanks, drainfield piping, and distribution boxes or work requiring a construction permit and an installer.

"MGD" means million gallons per day.

"MPI" means minutes per inch.

"Operate" means the act of making a decision on one's own volition to (i) place into or take out of service a unit process or unit processes or (ii) make or cause adjustments in the operation of a unit process at a treatment works.

"Operation" means the biological, chemical, and mechanical processes of transforming sewage or wastewater to compounds or elements and water that no longer possess an adverse environmental or health impact.

"Operator" means any individual employed or contracted by any owner who is licensed or certified under Chapter 23 (§ 54.1-2300 et seq.) of Title 54.1 of the Code of Virginia as being qualified to operate, monitor and maintain an alternative onsite sewage system.

"Organic loading rate" means the biodegradable fraction of chemical oxygen demand (BOD, biodegradable fats, oils, and grease and volatile solids) delivered to a treatment component in a specified time interval expressed as mass per time or area; examples include pounds per day, pounds per cubic foot per day (pretreatment), or pounds per square foot per day (infiltrative surface or pretreatment). For a typical residential system, these regulations assume that biochemical loading (BOD5) equals organic loading.

"Owner" means the Commonwealth or any of its political subdivisions, including sanitary districts, sanitation district commissions and authorities, or any individual, any group of individuals acting individually or as a group, or any public or private institution, corporation, company, partnership, firm, or association that owns or proposes to own a sewerage system or treatment works.

"pH" means the measure of the acid or base quality of water that is the negative log of the hydrogen ion concentration.

"Pollution" means such alteration of the physical, chemical, or biological properties of any state waters as will or is likely to create a nuisance or render such waters (i) harmful or detrimental or injurious to the public health, safety, or welfare or to the health of animals, fish, or aquatic life; (ii) unsuitable with reasonable treatment for use as present or possible future sources of public water supply; or (iii) unsuitable for recreational, commercial, industrial, agricultural, or other reasonable uses. Pollution shall include any discharge of untreated sewage into state waters.

"Point source discharge" means any discernible, confined, and discrete conveyance including any pipe, ditch, channel, tunnel, conduit, well, discrete fissure, container, rolling stock, concentrated animal feeding operation, landfill leachate collection system, vessel, or other floating craft from which pollutants are or may be discharged. This term does not include return flows from irrigated agriculture or agricultural storm water run-off.

"Project area" means one or more recorded lots or a portion of a recorded lot owned by the owner of an AOSS or controlled by easement upon which an AOSS is located or that is contiguous to a soil treatment area and that is designated as such for purposes of compliance with the performance requirements of this chapter. In the case of an AOSS serving multiple dwellings, the project area may include multiple recorded lots as in a subdivision.

"Project area boundary" or "project boundary" means the physical limits of the three-dimensional length, width, and depth of the project area, whereby each dimension is identified as follows: (i) the horizontal component is the length and width of the project area; (ii) the upper vertical limit is the ground surface in and around the AOSS; and (iii) the lower vertical limit is the limiting feature.

"Renewable operating permit" means an operation permit that expires and must be revalidated at a predetermined frequency or schedule in accordance with this chapter.

"Reportable incident" means one or more of the following: an alarm event lasting more than 24 hours; an alarm event that reoccurs; any failure to achieve one or more performance requirements; removal of solids; replacement of media; or replacement of any major component of the system including electric and electronic components, pumps, blowers, and valves. The routine cleaning of effluent filters is not a reportable incident.

"Saturated hydraulic conductivity" means a quantitative measure of a saturated soil's capacity to transmit water when subjected to a hydraulic gradient.

"Settleable solids" means a measure of the volume of suspended solids that will settle out of suspension within a specified time, expressed in milliliters per liter (ml/l).

"Sewage Handling and Disposal Regulations" means 12VAC5-610 or its successor.

"Small AOSS" means an AOSS that serves no more than three attached or detached single-family residences with a combined average flow of less than or equal to 1,000 GPD, or a structure with an average daily sewage flow of less than or equal to 1,000 GPD.

"Soil treatment area" means the physical location in the naturally occurring soil medium where final treatment and dispersal of effluent occurs.

"Standard disinfection" means a disinfection process that results in a fecal coliform concentration of less than or equal to 200 colonies/100 ml. Chlorine disinfection requires a minimum TRC concentration at the end of a 30 minute contact time of 1.0 mg/l. Influent TSS to the disinfection unit shall average 30 mg/l or less.

"Standard engineering practice" means the care, diligence, competence, and judgment that a reasonably prudent and experienced professional engineer licensed in the Commonwealth of Virginia would exercise given the circumstances, including site and soil conditions, of a particular AOSS design.

"State waters" means all water, on the surface and under the ground, wholly or partially within or bordering the Commonwealth or within its jurisdiction, including wetlands.

"Subsurface drainfield" means a system installed within the soil and designed to accommodate treated sewage from a treatment works.

"Surface waters" means: (i) all waters that are currently used, were used in the past, or may be susceptible to use in interstate or foreign commerce, including all waters that are subject to the ebb and flow of the tide; (ii) all interstate waters, including interstate wetlands; (iii) all other waters such as intrastate lakes, rivers, streams (including intermittent streams), mudflats, sandflats, wetlands, sloughs, prairie potholes, wet meadows, playa lakes, or natural ponds and the use, degradation, or destruction of which would affect or could affect interstate or foreign commerce including any such waters: (a) that are or could be used by interstate or foreign travelers for recreational or other purposes; (b) from which fish or shellfish are or could be taken and sold in interstate or foreign commerce; or (c) that are used or could be used for industrial purposes by industries in interstate commerce; (iv) all impoundments of waters otherwise defined as surface waters under this definition; (v) tributaries of waters identified in clauses (i) through (iv) of this definition; (vi) the territorial sea; and (vii) wetlands adjacent to waters (other than water that are themselves wetlands) identified in clauses (i) through (vi) of this definition.

"Total nitrogen" or "TN" means the measure of the complete nitrogen content of wastewater including all organic, inorganic, and oxidized forms expressed in mg/l as nitrogen.

"Total residual chlorine" or "TRC" means a measurement of the combined available chlorine and the free available chlorine available in a sample after a specified contact time.

"Total suspended solids" or "TSS" means a measure of the mass of all suspended solids in a sample typically measured in milligrams per liter (mg/l).

"Treatment level 2 effluent" or "TL-2 effluent" means secondary effluent as defined in 12VAC5-610-120 that has been treated to produce BOD5 and TSS concentrations equal to or less than 30 mg/l each.

"Treatment level 3 effluent" or "TL-3 effluent" means effluent that has been treated to produce BOD5 and TSS concentrations equal to or less than 10 mg/l each.

"Treatment unit" or "treatment system" means a method, technique, equipment, or process other than a septic tank or septic tanks used to treat sewage to produce effluent of a specified quality before the effluent is dispersed to a soil treatment area.

"Turbidity" means a measurement of the relative clarity of effluent as a result of the presence of varying amounts of suspended organic and inorganic materials or color.

"Vertical separation" means the vertical distance between the point of effluent application to the soil or the bottom of a trench or other excavation and a limiting feature of the soil treatment area such as seasonal high ground water, bedrock, or other restriction.

"Wetlands" means those areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or ground water at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions. Wetlands generally include swamps, marshes, bogs, and similar areas.

Statutory Authority

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

Historical Notes

Derived from Virginia Register Volume 28, Issue 5, eff. December 7, 2011; amended, Virginia Register Volume 33, Issue 20, eff. July 17, 2017.

12VAC5-613-20. Purpose and authority.

A. Pursuant to the requirements of §§ 32.1-12 , 32.1-163.6, and 32.1-164 of the Code of Virginia, the board has promulgated this chapter to:

1. Establish a program for regulating the operation and maintenance of alternative onsite sewage systems;

2. Establish performance requirements for alternative onsite sewage systems;

3. Establish horizontal setbacks for alternative onsite sewage systems that are necessary to protect public health and the environment;

4. Discharge the board's responsibility to supervise and control the safe and sanitary collection, conveyance, transportation, treatment, and disposal of sewage by onsite sewage systems and treatment works as they affect the public health and welfare;

5. Protect the quality of surface water and ground water;

6. Guide the commissioner in determining whether a permit or other authorization for an alternative onsite sewage system shall be issued or denied; and

7. Inform owners, applicants, onsite soil evaluators, system designers, and other persons of the requirements for obtaining a permit or other authorization for an AOSS.

B. The division may, as it deems necessary, develop best management practices for the purposes of recognizing acceptable methods to reduce pollution from AOSSs.

Statutory Authority

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

Historical Notes

Derived from Virginia Register Volume 28, Issue 5, eff. December 7, 2011.

12VAC5-613-30. Applicability and scope.

A. As provided in this section, this chapter governs the design, construction, and operation of AOSSs.

B. Part II of this chapter, Performance Requirements, applies only to AOSSs with applications filed on or after December 7, 2011.

C. Any AOSS with an application filed prior to December 7, 2011, is subject to the performance requirements contained in the regulations in effect at the time the system was permitted or the performance requirements contained in the operation permit.

D. Small AOSSs designed, constructed, permitted, and operated in accordance with this chapter; the prescriptive design, location, and construction criteria of 12VAC5-610-20; and the policies and procedures of the department are presumed to comply with the ground water quality requirements of 12VAC5-613-90 A.

E. Part III of this chapter, Operation and Maintenance Requirements, shall apply to all AOSSs, including those with applications filed prior to December 7, 2011.

F. Requirements for renewable operation permits contained in this chapter shall apply only to AOSSs with applications filed on or after December 7, 2011.

G. The laboratory sampling requirements of this chapter apply only to AOSSs with applications filed on or after December 7, 2011.

H. Any AOSS with an application filed prior to December 7, 2011, is subject to the laboratory sampling requirements contained in the regulations in effect at the time the system was permitted or the sampling requirements contained in the operation permit.

I. AOSSs designed pursuant to § 32.1-163.6 of the Code of Virginia are subject to the following requirements:

1. Performance requirements of this chapter unless waived pursuant to 12VAC5-613-210;

2. Horizontal setback requirements of this chapter;

3. Operation, maintenance, inspection, and sampling requirements of this chapter; and

4. Standard engineering practice.

J. Dispersal of treated or untreated sewage to a wetland that is subject to permitting by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality pursuant to the requirements of Title 62.1 of the Code of Virginia is specifically excluded from this chapter.

K. Spray irrigation systems are subject to permitting by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and are specifically excluded from this chapter.

L. Treatment units for small AOSSs that are recognized by the department as generally approved for TL-2 or TL-3 as of December 7, 2011, shall retain such status for a period of five years from December 7, 2011, after which the units shall be evaluated pursuant to the requirements of this chapter.

M. After December 7, 2011, new applications for general approval for TL-2 or TL-3 shall be subject to the requirements of this chapter. The department may continue to evaluate any treatment unit for small AOSSs that is undergoing evaluation as of December 7, 2011, using the protocol in place on the date of application for general approval.

N. The additional nutrient requirements for AOSSs in the Chesapeake Bay watershed contained in 12VAC5-613-90 D shall take effect on December 7, 2013.

Statutory Authority

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

Historical Notes

Derived from Virginia Register Volume 28, Issue 5, eff. December 7, 2011.

12VAC5-613-40. Relationship to other regulations.

A. This chapter is supplemental to 12VAC5-610 (Sewage Handling and Disposal Regulations).

B. All procedures pertaining to enforcement, minimum requirements for filing applications, and processing of applications, including appeals and case decisions contained in the Sewage Handling and Disposal Regulations shall apply to the permitting of AOSSs under this chapter.

C. In any case where there is a conflict between this chapter and the Sewage Handling and Disposal Regulations, this chapter shall control.

D. This chapter supersedes Table 5.4 of the Sewage Handling and Disposal Regulations for all AOSSs designed to disperse TL-2 or TL-3 effluent. Table 5.4 of the Sewage Handling and Disposal Regulations (12VAC5-610-950) shall govern the design of any AOSS designed to disperse septic tank effluent to the soil treatment area unless waived pursuant to 12VAC5-613-210.

E. All plans and specifications for AOSSs shall be properly sealed by a professional engineer licensed in the Commonwealth pursuant to Title 54.1 of the Code of Virginia unless such plans are prepared pursuant to an exemption from the licensing requirements of Title 54.1 of the Code of Virginia. All AOSS designs prepared by a professional engineer shall be reviewed by the department pursuant to § 32.1-163.6 of the Code of Virginia unless otherwise designated in writing by the professional engineer.

F. When AOSS designs are prepared pursuant to an exemption from the licensing requirements of Title 54.1 of the Code of Virginia, the designer shall provide a certification statement in a form approved by the division identifying the specific exemption under which the plans and specifications were prepared and certifying that the designer is authorized to prepare such plans pursuant to the exemption.

G. Each application under § 32.1-163.6 of the Code of Virginia shall include a site and soil characterization report using the Field Book for Describing and Sampling Soils, Version 2.0, National Soil Survey Center, Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, September 2002. The report may contain such information that the designer deems appropriate; however, it must describe the following minimum attributes of the site of the proposed soil treatment area:

1. Depth to limiting features, seasonal or perched water tables, pans, restrictions, or pervious or impervious bedrock;

2. Slope of the project area;

3. Ksat or percolation rate at the proposed installation depth and at depths below the soil treatment area to demonstrate compliance with this chapter. Ksat or percolation rate may be estimated for small AOSSs. The Ksat or percolation rate must be measured using an appropriate device for large AOSSs;

4. Landscape or landform; and

5. Project area along with those physical features in the vicinity of the proposed AOSS normally associated with plans for onsite sewage systems; such physical features include streams, bodies of water, roads, utilities, wells and other drinking water sources, existing and proposed structures, and property boundaries.

Statutory Authority

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

Historical Notes

Derived from Virginia Register Volume 28, Issue 5, eff. December 7, 2011.

12VAC5-613-50. Violations and enforcement.

A. Subject to the limitations of 12VAC5-613-30.B, failure by any owner of an AOSS to achieve one or more performance requirements prescribed by this chapter or specified for the AOSS shall be a violation of this chapter.

B. Failure by any owner to comply with the conditions of an operation permit shall be a violation of this chapter.

C. Failure by any owner to accomplish any mandated visit, operation, maintenance, repair, monitoring, sampling, reporting, or inspection requirement prescribed by this chapter shall be a violation of this chapter.

D. Failure by any owner to follow the approved operation and maintenance manual (O&M manual) shall be deemed a violation of this chapter when such failure results in the failure to achieve one or more performance requirements prescribed by this chapter.

E. Failure by any operator to perform any mandated activity in accordance with 12VAC5-613-110, 12VAC5-613-120, 12VAC5-613-180, or 12VAC5-613-190 shall be a violation of this chapter.

F. Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to limit the authority of the board, the commissioner, or the department to enforce this chapter or to enforce the requirements of 12VAC5-610.

G. In accordance with the Sewage Handling and Disposal Regulations and § 32.1-25 of the Code of Virginia, the commissioner may take such samples and conduct such monitoring, including ground water samples and monitoring, that he deems necessary to enforce this chapter.

H. The board, commissioner, and department may use any lawful means to enforce this chapter including voiding a construction or operation permit, imposition of civil penalties, or criminal prosecution pursuant to § 32.1-27 of the Code of Virginia.

I. Except when there is additional evidence that an AOSS has failed to achieve one or more of the performance requirements of this chapter or when a licensed operator has filed a report indicating that an AOSS cannot be returned to normal function via routine maintenance, the department shall not rely solely on the results of an individual grab sample to establish the factual basis for a violation of this chapter.

Statutory Authority

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

Historical Notes

Derived from Virginia Register Volume 28, Issue 5, eff. December 7, 2011.

12VAC5-613-60. Operation permits and land records.

A. The department shall not issue an operation permit for an AOSS until the property owner has recorded an instrument that complies with § 15.2-2157 E of the Code of Virginia in the land records of the circuit court having jurisdiction over the site of the AOSS. The local health department shall receive legal documentation indicating that the instrument has been duly recorded before issuance of the operation permit.

B. When all or part of the project area is to be used in the management of nitrogen from a large AOSS, the property owner or the owner of the AOSS shall record legal documentation in the land records of the circuit court having jurisdiction over the site of the AOSS. Such documentation shall contain assurances that the land area will be protected and preserved in accordance with the management methods established by the designer. The local health department shall receive legal documentation indicating that the instrument has been duly recorded before issuance of the operation permit.

C. All large AOSSs and any AOSS permitted pursuant to 12VAC5-613-90 C shall be subject a renewable operating permit. Such permits shall be issued for a period of five years. The owner of the AOSS shall apply for a new permit at least 180 days prior to the expiration date.

Statutory Authority

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

Historical Notes

Derived from Virginia Register Volume 28, Issue 5, eff. December 7, 2011.

12VAC5-613-70. General approval testing and evaluation.

The division shall develop a protocol to verify the expected performance of treatment units of small AOSSs that meet TL-2 or TL-3 effluent quality. The protocol to evaluate and test field performance of TL-3 treatment units shall include the following minimum requirements:

1. The manufacturer shall evaluate at least 20 treatment units installed in the Commonwealth of Virginia for single family residences occupied full-time, year-round throughout the testing and evaluation period;

2. The manufacturer shall provide the division with quarterly results of influent and effluent samples measuring, at a minimum, BOD and TSS for each installed treatment unit;

3. Operation and maintenance shall be performed on each treatment unit during the evaluation period in accordance with the provisions of this chapter; and

4. An independent third party with no stake in the outcome of the approval process shall oversee and administer the testing and evaluation protocol. Examples of an independent third party include faculty members in an appropriate program of an accredited college or university, a licensed professional engineer experienced in the field of environmental engineering, or a testing firm that is acceptable to the division.

Statutory Authority

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

Historical Notes

Derived from Virginia Register Volume 28, Issue 5, eff. December 7, 2011.

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