A new bill HB 332 Alternative onsite sewage systems; routine testing is being carried by Delegate Bob Marshall and is looking for support please contact your Virginia State General Assembly Delegate and Senator and urge them to support and or co-patron it. The bill is currently in House Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee. Let’s work together to get this change done to improve the Alternative Onsite Sewer System regulations. The summary of the bill is below, but the full text can be accessed at the Virginia General Assembly site.
Alternative onsite sewage systems; routine testing; who may test. Prohibits the Department of Health from requiring that owners of alternative onsite sewer systems with flows of less than or equal to 1,000 gallons per day and serving a single-family dwelling provide analyzed samples of effluent on a routine and recurring basis. The Board for Waterworks and Wastewater Works Operators and Onsite Sewage System Professionals must develop licensure for (i) employees or agents of licensed operators and (ii) owner-operators of an individual single-family dwelling that have demonstrated the competence and knowledge to operate, monitor, and maintain their own alternative onsite sewage system. Any professional engineer with a current license in the Commonwealth may elect to be deemed an owner-operator without the demonstration of further competence.
On October 28, 2009 the Virginia Department of Health published their Emergency Alternative Onsite Septic System, AOSS, regulations after public comment. The purpose of the regulations is to ensure that these more effective treatment systems are designed and installed appropriately and maintained in a manner to allow them to function properly to be protective of the environment and public health. The US EPA states in the “Volunteer National Guidelines for Management of Onsite and Clustered Treatment Systems” that improper design, construction, installation, operation and/or maintenance are the source of onsite waste treatment failures. The EPA estimates that 29-30% of Virginia households have septic systems and that 8% of theses systems are AOSS.
For single family homes the new Emergency AOSS regulations require that these systems are installed with conservative horizontal set backs, are operated and maintained by a licensed operator, grab samples taken by a licensed operator every five years (and analyzed by an EPA certified laboratory), and an operating manual and records need to be maintained on site. The HB 332 maintains the essential point of the regulations that these effective AOSS are maintained in a manner that makes them function properly for the protection of the environment and public health. However, the bill prevents the Department of Health from requiring routine sampling and analysis of single family AOSS with flows of less than 1,000 gallons a day. The sampling required under the Emergency Regulations was without technical merit or standard protocol. Developing an effective sampling protocol is impossible because the end of treatment for many AOSS systems is below ground surface and above groundwater. A monitoring well would remain dry and incapable of being sampled. Even if there were a way to sample the effluent at the end of treatment, testing of a septic system operation at a single point in time can be impacted by volume, load, temperature and humidity and is not representative of overall performance. Results from a single test can be expected normally to vary from acceptable overall average results and so are statistically misleading and not representative of sound sampling methods.
The bill also creates a provision in the law allowing for a homeowner to become trained to operate their own system. This would minimize the burden on many homeowners who are currently fully capable of operating and maintaining their systems or who can be trained to do so and is more in keeping with Virginia’s history and traditions of individual responsibility and self-reliance. Self regulation is a proven and effective model that can work here. Also, HB 332 would allow all Professional Engineers licensed in the Commonwealth of Virginia to operate and maintain their own single family AOSS without further training. Finally, the bill requires all field technicians working for as licensed operator to be trained to an adequate level to properly maintain the AOSS. This is to prevent licensed operators from hiring untrained and unqualified workers to respond to mandated demand and creates a level of knowledge necessary for anyone working on an AOSS.