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Crawford County develops new sanitation ordinance
CC admin building

CRAWFORD COUNTY - Crawford County is initi-ating a course of action to bring the county into com-pliance with the provisions of the State of Wisconsin Private Onsite Wastewater Treatment System (POWTS) Program.

This means that the home of every resident of the county will either need to be connected to a municipal wastewater system or a code compliant POWTS (septic system) that is regularly inspected a minimum of every three years once the ordinance is enacted.

The City of Prairie du Chien and all villages, except Bell Center and Steuben, are served by municipal wastewater systems. The ‘downtown area’ of Seneca Township is served by the Valley Ridge Clean Water Com-mission.

This leaves approximately 7,000 rural residents of the county who are not served by a municipal sys-tem and therefore must have a POWTS.

Focus on Compliance

Jake Shedivy, County Sanitation and Zoning Technician, emphasized that a stepped approach is being taken to bring the County into compliance.

“Our goal is to complete the project by October 1, 2019,” Shedivy explained. “We are starting by con-ducting an inventory of POWTS in the county so we can begin to get a sense of where we’re at now, and the scope of the project.”

Shedivy emphasized that the county prefers to focus on compliance by residents rather than enforcement.

“The goal is to fulfill state requirements and to protect public health and the waters of the state,” Shedivy said. “Previously, language in the statutes was not completely clear, and there was inconsistent implementation. Now, the language has been updated to include the word ‘shall,” and all of the state’s 72 counties are being required to comply.”

New ordinance

Shedivy says the county is overhauling the Sanitary Ordinance in order to in-form residents of the requirements in plain, simple language.

Shedivy expects this process to be completed in the spring of 2018. The ordinance is currently in development by the Crawford County Land Conservation Committee. Once a final draft is approved by the committee, it will be submitted to the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) and the county’s corporate counsel for re-view. Once okayed by DSPS and the county’s corporate counsel, it will go to the Crawford County Board for approval.

Shedivy explained that the state requires each of Wisconsin’s 72 counties to have a program which tracks POWTS inspections, evaluations, maintenance and servicing.

He explained that the new ordinance will detail what the minimum requirements will be for a POWTS at a rural dwelling. Rural landowners must have a properly designed and sited septic system (tank and drain field), and the drain field must be inspected every three years.

Wisconsin Administrative Code Chapter SPS 383 contains requirements for all POWTS to be serviced and inspected by a licensed plumber or certified septage servicing operator (septic pumper), POWTS inspector or maintainer, and certified to be in proper operating condition.

“The requirements of the inspections are common sense,” Shedivy explained. “We need to verify that the system is functioning properly and is not exhibiting any signs of failure.”

Some common signs of a failing systems include:

Discharge to surface or groundwater;

Introduction of sewage into zones of saturation (high seasonal water table or impermeable soil);

Discharge to a drain tile or zone of bedrock;

Discharge to the ground surface; and

Failure to accept waste.

“The crux of the program will be the inspections,” Shedivy said. “Just because a system is exhibiting signs of failure doesn’t necessarily mean it will have to be replaced. The focus of these laws is to ensure that problems are fixed before they become a potential environmental health hazard.”

Shedivy says the typical solutions to failing systems are:

Abatement of the problem;

Repair the problem;

Renovate the system;

Replace the system; or

Remove the system.


Simultaneously, the County is inventorying POWTS in the county.

Recently, rural county landowners received a re-quest to provide information to the Zoning Department about their septic system: Name; Address; Tax ID/Parcel Number; Type of System (In-Ground, At-Grade, Mound, Holding Tank, or Other (Explain); Date of Last Service; and Name and Phone Number of Servicing Company. The notice was mailed along with county property tax bills, and was orange in color.

Residents are asked to complete the form and re-turn it to Crawford County Zoning Department, 225 N. Beaumont Road, Room 223, Prairie du Chien, WI 53821.

The outcome of the inventory survey will be to establish which residences have a POWTS that is up to code and up to date on inspections; a POWTS that is up to code but in need of inspection; or a POWTS that may not meet code and needs to be inspected.

Some older, non-compliant, septic systems may be referred to as dry wells, cisterns, cesspools, fall-out pipes, French drains, and drain tiles. The-se types of systems will likely require replacement under Wisconsin Administrative Code.

“The state requirements are retroactive,” Shedivy explained. “No system is grandfathered if they exhibit signs of failure.”


Once the county has achieved compliance of rural landowners, then it will become a matter of maintaining records, which will document servicing and inspection records, and any corrective actions required for each POWTS.

For rural landowners who fail to bring their POWTS into compliance with the County’s Sanitation Ordinance, ultimately, there will be penalties the severity of which will increase as the period of non-compliance extends.

Ultimately, if non-compliance continues, the matter may be referred to the Crawford County District Attorney and prosecuted in Crawford County Circuit Court.