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How are septic systems regulated?
Regulations provide the framework for designing, constructing, and maintaining onsite systems in a way that is protective of public and environmental health. Regulators operate at the local, state, and federal level through permitting, inspection, enforcement, and technical assistance. In Virginia, local health departmentsissue construction and operating permits to install onsite/septic systems under state laws that govern public and environmental health protection and abatement of public nuisances. Private well permits are often issued in conjunction with a septic system permit.   The relevant regulations with links are in the table below.
Name of Regulation Citation Description
The Sewage Handling and Disposal Regulations 12VAC5-610 Covers basic onsite sewage systems
Regulations for Alternative Onsite Sewage Systems 12VAC5-613 Provides requirements for alternative onsite systems including O&M
The Private Well Regulations 12VAC5-630 Siting and construction of private wells
Alternative Discharging Sewage Treatment Regulations for Individual Single Family Dwellings 12VAC5-640 Construction and O&M standards discharging systems with a DEQ General Permit
Other Virginia regulations (18VAC160-10) require a licensed person to conduct the site assessment and design the onsite system.  The site assessment determines whether the soils can provide adequate treatment in accordance with the regulations.  The site assessment is then used to develop a system design that complies with the Regulations and protects public health and the environment through proper, siting, treatment, and design.  Virginia also permits alternative onsite systems when a conventional system is not allowed or desired.  The local health department oversees operation and maintenance of these alternative systems by ensuring that mandatory inspections are conducted and reported.
The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) does have licensed professionals who can do a site assessment and design conventional onsite systems.  However, VOWRA encourages owners to consider hiring a private consultant for their onsite system design.  VDH is limited to only designing residential systems that have a design flow less than 1,000 gallons per day and are conventional system only (septic tank and drainfield).  A private consultant can consider and design a wider range of systems that may work  better for a given situation; are generally faster; can help find an installer or operator; and can identify specific products that may work best for the specific site.
Why Should a Regulator Join VOWRA?
VOWRA is designed to be a place where all practitioners in the onsite field come together to discuss and share issues/concerns to improve the conditions of the onsite industry by working toward the establishment of uniform standards.    Regulators gain a better understanding of the practical application of regulations while private consultants can gain a better understanding of the goals and intent of regulations.

Additional Information
The links below are compiled from a variety of authoritative sources. The blue name indicates the source of the links and content below it.

A Homeowner's Onsite System Guide and Record Keeping Folder 

Order copies for the homeowners you work with

NOWRA-Water Quality Association Joint Guidance document on water softeners

EPA (US Environmental Protection Agency)
Voluntary National Guidelines for Management of Onsite and Clustered (Decentralized) Wastewater Treatment Systems
Handbook for Managing Onsite and Clustered (Decentralized) Wastewater Treatment Systems- A "how-to guide" for implementing EPA's Voluntary National Guidelines for Management of Onsite and Clustered (Decentralized) Wastewater Treatment Systems.
It's Your Choice: A Guidebook for Local Officials on Small Community Wastewater Management Options
Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination Guidance Manual
Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems Manual
Design Manual: Onsite Wastewater Treatment and Disposal Systems
When Is a Septic System Regulated as a Class V Well? (PDF
Decentralized Wastewater Treatment Systems: A Program Strategy (PDFv
The Wastewater Information Systems Tool (TWIST)
Decentralized Approaches to Wastewater Treatment (PDF
EPA Region 1 Innovative Technology Inventory

NESC (National Environmental Services Center)
Regulations Database- NESC provides electronic copies of each state's onsite wastewater regulatory documentation. Users should note that these are not official regulatory documents.
Regulations Affecting Small Systems(pdf) - For techical assistance providers and small community personnel, these tales present an overview of recent anticipated federal regualtion actions summarized in 2005.
Why and How to Educate the Homeowner about Septic Systems
Basic Water and Wastewater Formulas
Regulatory Agencies- NESC maintains a current list of links to U.S. departments that govern state onsite wastewater system regulations.
Wastewater Regulatory Contacts(pdf) - Contacts are listed by state and updated quarterly.
National Summary Citations(Onsite Wastewater Regulations by State)- View a summary of each state's regulatory agency activities regarding onsite wastewater information.

WERF (Water Environment Research Foundation)
Influent Constituent Characteristics of the Modern Waste Stream from Single Sources
State of the Science: Review of Quantitative Tools to Determine Wastewater Soil Treatment Unit Performance
Factors Affecting the Performance of Primary Treatment in Decentralized Wastewater Systems
Micro-Scale Evaluation of Phosphorus Management: Alternative Wastewater Systems Evaluation
Update of the Advanced On-Site Wastewater Treatment and Management Market Study
A Status of Tools and Support for Community Decentralized Wastewater Solutions
Variability and Reliability of Test Center and Field Data: Definition of Proven Technology From a Regulatory Viewpoint
Guidance for Establishing Successful Responsible Management Entities
Integrated Risk Assessment for Individual Onsite Wastewater Systems
Onsite Wastewater Regulator Outreach and Coordination Project
Onsite Sewage Treatment in California and the Progression Toward Statewide Standards
Model Decentralized Wastewater Practitioner Curriculum

SORA (State Onsite Regulators Alliance)
Onsite Wastewater Nutrient Regulation Survey Report

Water Quality Research Foundation
Changes in Septic Tank Effluent Due  to Water Softener Use (Report)
NOWRA statement to SORA regarding official position on WQRF report