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February 2014

Written by Charles Riedlinger, P.E. and Norm Risavi, County Administrator


In 1995, Resource International, Ltd (Resource) was retained by Westmoreland County to develop a plan for collection, treatment, and disposal of wastewater throughout the County. Prior to this study, there were no County-owned and maintained wastewater collection or treatment systems. Westmoreland County, Virginia, is a serene rural county located on the Northern Neck of Virginia bordering along the Potomac River. The Potomac River outlines most of the County’s northern border, while the southern boundary is defined partly by the Rappahannock River. The county occupies a land area of roughly 236 square miles, 57% of which is forest land. The middle section of the county containing the state park and its surrounding area has a terrain that is mostly forested with scattered ravines and small valleys. The remaining land area is considered to be flat plateaus with some slightly rolling hills.

The County's economy is largely based on agriculture. Tourism is another significant economic driver, related to historical sites such as George Washington Birthplace National Monument and Robert E. Lee's birthplace, Stratford Hall Plantation, as well as gambling activities available in Colonial Beach. The County is also an extended exurb of Washington, D.C.

It’s location on the Potomac makes it a prime area for recreational fishing and it is a popular place for summer home communities. However, opportunities for economic development and population growth had been limited to certain areas in the County with suitable soils for on-lot septic systems. In many areas of the County, platted lots could not qualify for building permits due to unsuitable soils or the inability to provide adequate reserve drain fields required by the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act.

There are a number of commercial oyster beds within the waters surrounding the County. However, there are numerous areas the Virginia Department of Health has condemned due to pollution, largely attributed to failing septic tanks.

The study was intended to seek environmental protection of the County’s resources, and provide a means for stimulating planned population and economic growth prescribed by the County’s Comprehensive Plan.


The countywide study focused on areas within the County where development had already taken place, and had a significant potential for continued development. These areas were reviewed with County representatives for input. As such the following areas were determined to be the focus areas:

• Portions of the Washington Magisterial District
• The Stratford Harbor Area
• The Glebe Harbor
• Cabin Point Area
• Tidwell Area
• The Coles Point Area
• The Sandy Beach Area
• The Kinsale Area.

These areas had many things in common. They had waterfront communities that had stopped growing and offered little opportunity to contribute to the growth of the County tax base. Within those communities there were subdivisions approved in the 1950’s with small lots without area for septic drainfield reserves if soils were inadequate. Property owners were finding that they were denied building permits or they had to install expensive alternative sewer treatment systems. Outside the platted communities the surrounding area was generally rural and development was more commonly characterized by larger lots with adequate drainfield capacity.

The report served as a tool for determining the needs within the county and prioritizing those needs for actual capital construction programs and was intended to establish a working plan that would serve as an implementation guide throughout a planning period of the next 20 years.

To review the entire article, click here.

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