Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Loudoun County Health Department Leading the Way in Virginia

Starting next month (July 1, 2009) Loudoun County, Virginia will be requiring all non- traditional septic systems, which were permitted before November 2, 2008 to be inspected annually. Non-traditional systems approved after November 2, 2008 will require annual inspection and an annual maintenance contract. This regulation should ensure that non-traditional septic systems are appropriately maintained and operated in their county. These non-traditional septic systems include: aerobic tank or ATU’s, peat filter systems, single and recirculation sand filters, mound, drip dispersal, spray and low pressure dispersal. Manufacturers of these systems include but are not limited to: Advantex, Aquarobic, Puraflo, Eco-Flo, Whitewater, FAST, BEST, American Drip, and Geoflo.
Though the three chamber system also known as aerobic tank or ATU system is becoming the most popular alternative type system, it is also the most sensitive to improper use and maintenance. They are great when they work, but you need to baby them. These systems were discussed in a previous post. The other non-traditional systems are essentially other methods of replacing a traditional leach field with other filtering methods.
The peat media filter system is a traditional septic tank with peat filtration system instead of a leach field. The filtration system is the aerobic portion of the treatment and is located in tanks which are filled with peat moss. The water is evenly spread over the peat moss then seeps through the media and has a place to collect at the bottom. The peat is an excellent media for allowing the natural secondary treatment of the sewage waste to take place: Absorption and filtration of any impurities chemical adsorption, and microbial assimilation. As a result, these systems are typically capable of removing 90% or more of the polluted mater (characterized as BOD, SS, Coli forms and E. Coli). The life of these systems are 15 years or less until the media is exhausted and needs to be replaced.
Sand filters are a type of aerobic treatment system these are less effective treatments than a peat medium system removing only around 70% of the polluted matter, but that is usually enough in the instances where they are used. These systems date back to the last century and were generally installed above ground to solve a problem with a failing septic. There are single pass sand filters and multi pass re-circulating sand filters. Both types of sand filter are built in a watertight container. Though these systems could be excavated and buried, but they are usually visible and above ground. In addition to physically filtering the water, they perform as a biological filter. A Mound is another form of above ground filtration system. The mound is used as an intermittent sand filter to treat waste water and to disperse effluent through the natural soil. These kind of filtration systems are usually very visible and can be very unsightly.
The basic principles for drip distribution are the same as for other soil-based treatment systems: filtering and bacterial decomposition of waste. The difference is that a drip distribution system distributes the effluent evenly over a large area. A drip distribution system has four main parts: a pretreatment device, a pump tank, a filtering/flushing device, and the distribution system.
I will watch with interest as the Loudoun County program is rolled out. The one area where the county did not think out the implications of their program was requiring all existing system inspections to take place between May 1 and June 30th annually. They need to spread these inspections throughout the year. Their program could serve as a model and test for the new Commonwealth of Virginia regulations required under § 32.1-164 of the Code of Virginia. Loudoun County’s proactive stance could serve the rest of the state in working out all the roadblocks and hurdles for the proper functioning of the regulatory scheme.

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