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The requirements pertain to all septic systems and do not differentiate between primary and secondary dwellings (cottages). In some situations systems on limited use may have a higher potential of malfunctioning. The systems have an increased probability of freezing that can break components in the tank or dispersal cell potentially causing a backup of the system into the structure or discharge to the ground surface causing a human health hazard.
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Yes, maintenance such as pumping at an interval of less than 3 years is acceptable. Some plumbers upon installation inform the owners to pump more frequently to allow the dispersal cells a resting (drying) period. This should be done during the dry summer months.
Oconto County's intention is to have all maintenance notices sent between late spring through early fall. Holding off on pumping until late fall increases the possibility of freezing your septic system if the tank is required to be pumped. See question regarding when tanks need to be pumped and the required servicing. All septic tanks need warmth to maintain a temperature above freezing through the winter months. Last winter's weather was conducive to freeze-ups since there was no snow cover for insulation during the cold temperatures. In order to avoid freeze-ups it is best to perform the maintenance in the summer months. If the tanks cannot be pumped until late fall or later provide additional insulation over the tank(s).
The information that should be reviewed is the maintenance plan included with the sanitary permit if the permit was issued after July 1, 2000. A Homeowner's Guide to Septic Systems Manual is available either on the Environmental Protection Agency website or by emailing the Oconto County Zoning Department or phoning 920-834-6827.
WI Admin. Code SPS 383.50 requires that all Private Onsite Wastewater Treatment System (POWTS) owners must perform maintenance on their septic systems. Oconto County has completed an inventory of all pre-1989 sanitary permits and placed onto the maintenance program as required by this code. Starting in 2017, the pre-1989 properties that are documented to have a POWTS will be enrolled into the maintenance program by receiving notices to have their POWTS serviced and the documentation provided to Oconto County Zoning Department. 2017 notices will include all permits of record from the 1980s. 2018 notices will include all permits of record from the 1970s. 2019 notices will include all permits prior to 1970 and any other parcels known to have or suspected to have a POWTS. The suspected property owners will have an opportunity to provide documentation that there is or is not a POWTS located on their parcel so the Zoning Department can have an accurate account of all active POWTS within Oconto County.
In this case you should contact the service provider who pumped the tanks and ask if this individual would sign the card stating they verified the system meets the requirements of the notice. Remember that this individual is required to verify all components of the system and not just the pumping of the tanks. As per state code, the owner is ultimately responsible for ensuring the operation and maintenance of the POWTS.
The tank should be inspected for the condition of the manholes, observation pipes, cracks or leaks in the tank, baffle/filter condition and pumping if needed. Tanks that have combined sludge and scum levels over 1/3 the tank capacity shall be pumped. In most situations, the tanks are pumped regardless of the amount of solids. The pump tanks should also be inspected for proper operation of alarms, pumps, etc. The dispersal cell(s) should be visually inspected for discharge to the ground surface and verifying effluent levels if any in the observation pipes.
A second notice to have the maintenance completed will be sent. This will note that maintenance shall be completed in an expedited timeline. If not received within that time frame Oconto County has the authority to issue citations and seek legal action to resolve the human health hazard. Remember that the requirements of proper maintenance are to your benefit. Using a financial comparison associated with this maintenance, the annual cost to maintain your vehicle is substantially more than the cost to maintain your POWTS.
A key reason to maintain your system is to save money! A three-year inspection is a bargain when you consider the cost of replacing the entire POWTS. Other reasons include preventing the spread of infection and disease and protecting the ground water. Also, the state plumbing code requires all active systems installed in Oconto County to have maintenance completed at least once every 3 years.
In past state plumbing codes, the county was only mandated to provide maintenance notices to parcels that pulled a sanitary permit issued after the date the county enrolled into the state WI Fund Grant program. In Oconto County that date was in 1989. So all new permits since 1989 were the only properties that received notices for required maintenance. Since 2000, WI Admin. Code and WI Statute provided a deadline in 2017 for all counties to complete an inventory of all known properties that have a POWTS. That inventory is complete. Oconto County is now mandated to enroll all POWTS into the 3-year maintenance cycle by 2019. Breaking up the pre-1989 POWTS into thirds, Oconto County will accomplish this mandate over the next couple of years to be in compliance. So your neighbor will be receiving a notice within the next two years to perform the maintenance requirements the same as you have over the past years.