Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Virginia Department of Health
State Board of Health
Onsite Sewage Regulations [12 VAC 5 ‑ 611]
Action Adopt new performance-based regulations pertaining to locating, designing, constructing and operating onsite sewage systems.
Comment Period Ended on 11/12/2008
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11/12/08  3:00 pm
Commenter: Larry F. Baldwin - President, National Society Consulting Soil Scientists

Comments concerning 12 VAC 5-11

In a comprehensive re-write of rules & standards it is important to:  ---not repeat the errors of the past;  ---learn from past knowledge;  ---base rules on fact, not perceived assumptions or emotions.  As representing the National Society of Consulting Soil Scientists (NSCSS) and over 30 years of professional soils consulting in the waste treatment / land application field, we are quite perplexed that the one profession with the most expertise of critical soil / site paramenters and soil/water relationships is totally ignored in the re-write of this Va rule?  When most land application rules were significantly changed to be a soils based format in the 1970's, waste treatment system failure rates drastically declined and have steadily improved to present.  The proposed rule also appears to give the engineering profession the ability and authority to evaluate and interprete soils and potential waste treatment sites, which is very regressive to the pre-1970's era.  This also totally ignores and likely creates a direct line of conflict between these established Va professions as to abiltities by education, training, and experience.

The concept of having "prescriptive" and "performance" based rules is positive.   ASTM, NSF, ANSI, and EPA standards now provide a good national format for waste treatment "prescriptive" rules to be applied at the State level.  The State should strengthen these prescriptive standards to match their specific geographic needs.   If alternative or highly engineered systems are considered then "performance" based rules should be implemented, with the caveat that the best recognized professionals are utilized within their respective fields to properly locate, size, and be responsible for their respective works.  There are many pre-engineered alternative pretreament systems within the market place that did not even a decade ago.  These alternative pretreatment systems still have specific soil & siteing requirements that should be properly evaluated, rather than indescriminantly located by prescriptive engineering guess work. 

Additionally the pre-engineered system's manufacturer is ultimately held responsible for their system's success and operating within its' design specifications.  These systems should not be indescriminatly located by engineering guess work, as the manufacturers product reputation and liability is held in jeopardy. 

A comprehensive re-write of VA on-site waste treatment rules can be an improvement in protecting the health standards and protecting the public's health & welfare.  If done without considering and learning from the past, or injecting special agenda demands, then unintended consequences will result and improvements not realized.

Larry F. Baldwin, CPSS/Sc    2008-President National Society of Consulting Soil Scientists & CSSC Director.


CommentID: 3931