Help for septic system maintenance

For assistance with the maintenance, repair or replacement of septic systems, Virginia and the Culpeper Soil and Water Conservation District offer a grant-based cost-share program for significant portions of Rappahannock, Culpeper and Madison counties.

Homeowners in the eligible watershed areas of the upper Hazel River watershed are eligible for the assistance, which includes reimbursement of 50 of the cost of such on-site septic system projects (qualifying incomes can raise the reimbursement rate as high as 75 percent).

The program is particularly focused on installing new systems where antiquated or deficient systems exist. For the upper Hazel watershed, all of Rappahannock County that drains to the Hughes, Hazel, Thornton, Covington and Rush rivers, including all of Battle Run, is eligible. This covers most of the county, except a small area north of Amissville and the Flint Hill and north area. The Etlan and Nethers areas of Madison and Culpeper west of Reva, Griffinsburg and Monumental Mills are also included.

The program is funded by an initiative to reduce bacteria levels in local streams. Malfunctioning or non-existing systems are one source of the bacteria. It is important for homeowners to understand the impact of their systems, which starts with understanding how the system works. A typical septic system consists of three main parts: the septic tank, the distribution box and the drainfield. Septic system problems may be identified by gurgling noises when fluids leave the home and the slow draining of sinks, toilets and/or the bathtub, for example. Also, wet spots and strange odors above your septic system components may be a symptom of septic system malfunction; this is usually due to sewage seeping above the ground.

By looking after your septic system, you will protect the health of your family and neighbors as well as the water that humans, wildlife, aquatic life and the environment depend on. The upper Hazel cost-share program is funded by the state to improve water quality in the area and downstream, and is entirely voluntary. An application is required prior to starting septic cost-share projects; on completion of the work, homeowners are reimbursed promptly.

The Culpeper conservation district staff can help with a free assessment; for more information, call 540-948-7531 or 540-825-8591.

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