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What is a POWTS?

POWTS is an acronym for a Private Onsite Wastewater Treatment System. A more widely used term is 'septic system'. It is intended to treat domestic wastewater. The most common onsite system used is a septic tank in combination with a traditional drain field. A properly designed, installed, and maintained system should operate for 20 to 40 years or more, treating wastewater to minimize the negative impact on groundwater, surface water, and human health.

What is the Inventory and Maintenance Program?

Each governmental unit within the State of Wisconsin is required to conduct, complete and maintain an inventory of all POWTS located within their jurisdictional area. The inventory does not require site visits, POWTS identification, or an evaluation of the POWTS. Upon completion of the inventory, the governmental unit shall develop and implement a comprehensive POWTS maintenance program, which is a process that accepts and records inspections, evaluations, maintenance, and servicing reports submitted by the POWTS owner or owner’s agent. Every POWTS shall be visually inspected at least once every three years to determine whether wastewater or effluent from the POWTS is ponding on the surface of the ground.

What is the reason for the State law?

The State law is intended to protect the health and safety of Wisconsin residents and to protect the ground and surface waters of the State. It is important to make sure that wastewater or effluent from the septic system is being treated properly, and to identify septic systems when they are not functioning properly. If a failing septic system contaminates drinking water, it can affect many more people than just the owner of the septic system.

Where can I find the regulations regarding this State law?

SPS 383.255 and State Statute 145.20(5) address the requirement that counties must inventory all septic systems (POWTS) in the county and have a maintenance program in place encompassing all of these systems. SPS 383.54 addresses the maintenance requirements for all POWTS, indicating the type of maintenance that must be performed on these systems and who must perform it.

What will be required of me as a property owner as a result of this program?

After this initial information goes out and the inventory is completed, the County will begin sending out parcel-specific information and pumping notices. The pumping notice will have questions on it that need to be answered, thus you will have to contact a licensed pumper to come out to inspect your system and get it pumped. Once the pumping form is completed, you need to return it to the Planning and Zoning Department within the allotted timeframe. Once your POWTS is entered into our system, you will receive pumping notices every three years reminding you that your system is due to be pumped.

What if I have my tanks pumped every year or every two years?

While pumping your septic tanks every three years is the requirement, many experts in the field will recommend a more frequent maintenance program. If you do have your system serviced at a more frequent time interval, you may provide your pumper with a copy of the pumping form for them to fill out and return to the County. If you do not have a form, please contact Portage County Planning and Zoning Department to obtain one, 715-346-1334, or you may access a form online here. Portage County will continue to send pumping reminders every three years from the last date we have on record.

What will happen if I choose not to comply?

Legal action will be taken in the form of a Summons and Complaint requiring court appearance. You may respond to the Summons and Complaint by either contacting the Planning and Zoning Department before the court date or by appearing in court. If you fail to respond, a judgment will be issued against you in the amount of $5,000 until we gain compliance. A forfeiture amount will be determined at the time of compliance.

What is the new on-line POWTS Maintenance reporting system?

Portage County has begun an on-line reporting system for filing of POWTS maintenance reports. When a pumper has completed maintenance of a POWTS, they are to log onto the Portage County website and file a report on the correct parcel. Any person may go to the site and view their parcel to see if the information has been reported and view maintenance history.

Current Projects Update:

Portage County completed the inventory portion of this program in 2009. In the future, letters will be sent to those properties suspected to have a POWTS. Homeowners receiving these letters regarding the possibility of a POWTS on their property will have to either contact Portage County Planning and Zoning Department to discuss the issue or have the system pumped or inspected and the proper form completed and returned to the Planning and Zoning Department. If the system has recently been serviced, the proper form will have to be completed and returned to the Planning and Zoning Department. Once these inventoried properties have been verified, they will be put into the maintenance program, which means they will receive a form from Portage County every three years stating their POWTS is due for servicing.

Link to: What to do with your private onsite wastewater treatment system (POWTS) after a flood?

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