POWTS Maintenance Information

On July 1, 2000, the State of Wisconsin’s revised uniform plumbing code took effect.  Initially known as Wisconsin Administrative Code Comm. 83, today it is Wisconsin Administrative Code SPS 383. A part of this new code package is the requirement for all counties in Wisconsin to complete a Private Onsite Wastewater Treatment System (POWTS) inventory and maintenance tracking program.  A POWTS, also commonly called a septic system, includes: conventional systems, mound systems, at-grade systems, pre-treatment systems, holding tanks, etc.  There have been several deadline extensions over the years but now the final implementation deadline is upon us.  By October 1, 2019 Douglas County is required to have a POWTS maintenance and tracking program in place. [SPS 383.255(2)(a)]

In the spring of 2019, property owners of a POWTS in Douglas County, WI will start receiving notification postcards in the mail.  These postcards notify owners that an inspection, maintenance, and/or pumping of their POWTS must be completed in order to comply with Wisconsin State Statute SPS 383. 

Under SPS 383, the county was required to complete a POWTS inventory by October 1, 2017. [SPS 383.255(1)(a)] Our office has records of sanitary permits dating back to the 1970s and currently has inventory of over 8,000 POWTS installed and operating in the county.   

How the POWTS Maintenance Program will work

Every owner of property served by a POWTS in Douglas County will receive an initial postcard notification stating that their system must be inspected; owners will have 3 years from the initial postcard to complete this inspection. A third of the county will receive the initial postcard at a time; please see map to find out what year a postcard will be received. After the initial postcard is mailed, property owners will be receiving postcard reminders to have their system inspected and/or pumped every 3 years and/or as specified in the maintenance plan for their POWTS.

What the Inspection Requires

We have classified POWTS into three different categories:

Systems installed prior to July 1, 2000

  • A visual inspection to determine whether wastewater or effluent from the POWTS is ponding on the surface of the ground will be made.  The septic tank is inspected and if the combined sludge and scum volume equals 1/3 of the tank volume it is to be pumped out by a licensed septic hauler.  [SPS 383.54(4)(d) and SPS 383.54(4)(a)

Systems permitted and installed after July 1, 2000

  • Systems permitted after July 1, 2000 are required to have a maintenance plan, so the inspection requirements must follow the maintenance plan.  Generally the inspection involves cleaning the effluent filter, checking pump and float controls, and checking effluent level and condition of drainfield.  The inspection will also check the condition of the septic tank and if the combined sludge and scum volume equals 1/3 of the tank volume, if so, it is to be pumped by a Wisconsin licensed septic hauler.

Holding tanks

  • Holding tanks are to have audible and visual alarms that activate when the wastewater is 1 foot below the inlet invert of the tank. [SPS 383.54(3)(c)]  When the alarm goes off you are to contact a licensed septic hauler to have the tank pumped.

Frequently Asked Questions