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Planning/Zoning/Solid Waste » Sanitary

1. Can I perform maintenance sooner than every 3 years?

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.

2. In general when is the best time to have my tank pumped?

Oconto County’s intention is to have all maintenance notices sent between late spring thru early fall. Holding off on pumping until late fall increases the possibility of freezing your septic system. All septic tanks need warmth to maintain a temperature above freezing thru the winter months. Last winters 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).

3. Is there information available on proper use and maintenance of my septic system?

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 Homeowners Guide to Septic Systems Manual is available either on the following website ( or by contacting the Oconto County Zoning Department by phoning 920-834-6827 or by the e-mail address (

4. My system was installed prior to 1989. Why did I receive a notice of maintenance?

As of July 1, 2000 the state code requires that all POWTS owners must perform maintenance on their septic systems. Oconto County has been updating pre-1989 permits onto the maintenance program as required by this code. Eventually all systems will be on the maintenance program.

5. My tanks were pumped last year and now I received my notice. Do I need to schedule another maintenance inspection considering the tanks were pumped the year prior?

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.

6. What are the licensed pumpers, plumbers, etc. required to inspect?

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.

7. What if I neglect to have the maintenance completed within the 60 days?

A second notice to have the maintenance completed will be sent. This will note that maintenance shall be completed in 10 days. If not received within that time frame Oconto County has the authority to issue citations and seek legal action to resolve the matter. 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.

8. Why am I required to do maintenance on my cottage septic system when I only use it two or three times a year?

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.

9. Why am I required to have my system maintained every three years?

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 systems installed in
Oconto County since 1989 to have maintenance completed at least every 3 years.