Alternative septic systems share similar components to conventional systems, but differ in that they have some type of secondary method of treatment that further purifies the effluent before discharging to the soil. Alternative systems also differ in that they often have more mechanical and technical components that do require regular maintenance and monitoring to be sure the system is functioning properly and as designed. The ultimate goal of any sewage disposal system is purification of effluent through denitrification, phosphorous removal, and removal of pathogens and toxins before reaching our waterways. Based on a soil study, it may be determined that an individual piece of property may require secondary treatment to ensure these requirements are met as a result of shallow water tables, inadequate lot size, and soil limitations. While permits for conventional septic systems may be designed and generated by your local environmental health office, a design for an alternative septic system must be done by a licensed AOSE or engineer (following a proper soil study).
Alternative systems are becoming more and more prevalent due to increasing and more stringent regulations governing the handling, treatment and disposal of wastewater and new, evolving technologies. New legislature for more stringent regulations is often introduced in an effort to further preserve and protect the Chesapeake Bay Watershed that we all live in. When septic systems are not maintained regularly, whether they are conventional or alternative, when they malfunction, or when they fail, these systems pose a direct and hazardous threat to our environment. With more than 100,000 streams, creeks, and tributaries that connect us all in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, our vigilance in taking care of our private septic systems, or lack thereof, has potential consequences that may be far-reaching.
If you have an Alternative Onsite Sewage System, or think you may have one, please refer to our page for information on Virginia’s regulations and the Operations and Maintenance program we offer to address these needs