Groundwater Ordinance Public Hearing




Public Hearing on proposed ordinances to implement the groundwater program




Tucker, Foley, Graham, Benish, Green






December 8, 2004


ACTION:       X                            INFORMATION:   



  ACTION:                                   INFORMATION:   











The current proposal for a groundwater ordinance and assessment standards has a long history, including:



At the Commissionís August 10, 2004 public hearing and work session, the Commission recommended approval of the program elements.  The program requires amendments to the Water Protection, Zoning, and Subdivision ordinances. 


Attachments A, B and C are the recommended ordinance language for the Subdivision Ordinance, Water Protection Ordinance, and Zoning Ordinance.  




Goal 2.2:  Protect and/or preserve the Countyís natural resources.




At the Boardís October 27, 2004 work session, staff presented the ordinance as recommended by the Planning Commission and discussed two concerns which the Board had identified at a July worksession.  Those concerns were: 


  1. Should the standards be made more stringent by requiring Tier 4 assessments (aquifer and pump testing) for subdivisions plats of a certain size and/or density, and providing for certain plats to be rejected if some threshold of water yield could not be met, as determined by the test? 


  1. How does the proposed program prevent new wells on individual rural lots (not part of a newly platted division) from becoming contaminated from known petroleum releases, as happened in the Red Hill area in the early 1990ís?


Subsequent to the Boardís July work session, staff consulted with the groundwater committee and several state agencies to get a recommendation on these concerns.  Those recommendations were discussed and addressed at the October work session.


Requiring Aquifer Testing for Certain Subdivision Plats

In response to the concern raised by the Board, it was decided at the October work session to modify Section 17.403(A.) of the proposed ordinance, which addresses Tier 3 assessments, to allow for the requirement of a Tier 4 assessment if warranted.  In addition, in the design standards for Tier 3 groundwater assessments, language also allows staff to require more stringent groundwater assessment data (including a Tier 4 assessment) where special areas of concern, such as a previously unknown source of contamination, are identified.  Staff believes this approach provides adequate flexibility and allows the Groundwater Manager to require a more structured testing protocol when conditions warrant.  Staff will plan on returning to the Board one year after the program is implemented to evaluate the effectiveness of this provision. 


Preventing Contamination of Newly Drilled Wells on Rural Lots

This issue involved coordination between the Virginia Department of Health (the agency that issues permits for wells) and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (the agency that investigates leaking tank incidents).  This issue is recognized at the state-level, and the State Code was amended in 1998 to address it (Section 62.1-44.15:4.1).  This Code section requires DEQ to notify VDH of any confirmed release or discharge of oil.  In response to the code language, the two agencies have instituted a method of communication and coordination on underground storage tank investigations.  DEQ updates the leaking tank list on a web site on a periodic basis, and VDH downloads the information for each district and makes it available to the sanitarians who issue well and septic permits. Staff recommends the Groundwater Manager monitor the existing protocol between DEQ and VDH and, after one year, advise the Board on any County actions needed to bolster communication or review to prevent a Red Hill type incident.   


Effective Date of Ordinance

Staff recommends that the ordinance be effective sixty days after adoption.  This delay will allow for the completion of the selection and training of the Groundwater Manager, who will be critical to the implementation of this ordinance.  In addition, this time allows staff to ensure that the necessary changes are in the Design Manual, the modifications to the permitting process are in place, and staff has given the public adequate notice of what to expect with the new ordinance.  That is intended to assure a smooth transition for our customers.




Adopt the attached amendments to the Water Protection, Zoning, and Subdivision ordinances, to be made effective 60 days after adoption.




Attachment A:  Amendment to the Subdivision Ordinance

Attachment B:   Amendment to the Water Protection Ordinance

Attachment C:   Amendment to the Zoning Ordinance
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