Safety and Health in Facilitating a Transition (SHIFT)

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Increased private sector involvement in the onsite sewage program began when the 1999 General Assembly mandated sweeping changes. VDH was required to accept private evaluations and designs from Authorized Onsite Soil Evaluators. Up until then, VDH had performed all direct services, except for engineering designs and occasional advisory reports from the private sector. The General Assembly decided over a decade ago that direct services could be performed by the private sector and that VDH oversight of the program and private sector was necessary. Today, about 35 percent of all applications submitted to VDH for onsite sewage and well permits include private sector soil evaluations and designs. The percent of private sector work varies widely across the Commonwealth. VDH recognizes the need to address issues related to private sector participation in the onsite sewage program. To meet this need VDH has contracted with the Institute for Environmental Negotiations at the University of Virginia to create a third party, stakeholder process; the Safety and Health in Facilitating a Transition (SHIFT). You can view the complete list of SHIFT committee members here.

The SHIFT Charge

Produce a report of recommendations to advise VDH on how to maximize private sector participation in the onsite sewage program while providing adequate oversight to protect public health and the environment.

Categories of Discussion Topics
Roles & Responsibilities Transition Process, Including Regulatory and Legislative Changes Financial and Economic Issues

To the extent possible, the SHIFT’s recommendations should address the following questions and issues:

    1. Roles and Responsibilities
      • What direct services and core functions are necessary to protect public health and ground water supplies in the Commonwealth? Which of those services and core functions must be accomplished by the Department?
        • Identify the Department’s core functions and responsibilities in assessment, policy development, and assurance (see the 10 essential services for environmental public health);
        • Identify how the Department can assure quality and timely direct services are provided to the public and local governments, especially given regional differences;
        • Identify the Department’s resource needs to perform the core functions that are necessary to protect public health and groundwater supplies;
        • Identify ways to keep a “checks and balances” system in place.
        • Identify how the Department’s staff can maintain expertise in the program.
        • Identify the elements or conditions that create choice and competition for services;
        • Evaluate options for responding to repair applications;
      • What core functions or tasks can be accomplished by the private sector? Identify the strategies and methods for achieving greater private sector involvement. The report should identify the following to the extent possible
        • Investigate ways to encourage or increase private sector input in rural areas;
        • Investigate ways to encourage or increase private sector input for work with repairs
    2. Transition Process, Including Regulatory and Legislative Needs
      • Identify or recommend the means for an orderly transition.
        • Identify or recommend tactics that may be implemented relatively easily and quickly;
        • Evaluate regional differences, barriers, and triggers that could effect change;
        • Identify or recommend options that appear promising or feasible but require additional study or input;
        • Identify or recommend ideas that require regulatory action by the Board of Health;
        • Identify or recommend legislative changes.
      • How should change be accomplished to minimize unintended consequences and negative impacts?
        • Identify challenges for change and mitigation strategies;
        • Recommend or create a reasonable timeline
      • Describe other strategies, data, information, or detail as developed through or deemed necessary by the SHIFT stakeholder process
    3. Financial and Economic Issues
      • Identify fiscal impacts to the Department and local governments related to recommended changes.
      • Identify the economic impact to those who receive direct services (i.e., private citizens, local governments, septic contractors, and other stakeholders).
        • Describe anticipated or possible financial impacts to low and moderate income property owners with increased private sector involvement in direct services;
        • Describe strategies to reduce any possible impact to low or moderate income owners;
        • Address supply and demand to ensure reasonably priced services can be provided as housing market conditions change or improve;
        • Describe how changes in the housing market could affect the demand for services and the ability to provide timely services.
        • Discuss ideas to reduce financial impacts from bad outcomes, such as the early failure of an onsite sewage system.
      • Identify funding needed to implement SHIFT stakeholder group recommendations.
        • Identify ways to improve or change the Departments fee structure to help increase private sector involvment in delivery of direct services.
        • Identify short and long-term funding needs to sustain the Department’s implementation of core functions.
        • Options to investigate for the above:
          1. Investigate the ability to institute regional policies or regional fee differences for various application types, including new construction, reviews of existing sewage systems, voluntary upgrades, certification letters, repairs, etc.
          2. Investigate the possibility of creating a fund or expanding the betterment loan program;
          3. Investigate the possibility of supporting the Department with greater general fund revenue;
    4. Other
      • Analysis should include the E.L. Hamm study from 2006 and teh HB2185 study. Are these studies still reflective of stakeholder opinions and views?

Contact Us:
For more information regarding the SHIFT please contact Kelly Wilder with the Institute for Environmental Negotiation’s at