Van Vliet Lake Association

 A Septic System Review



One part of the Van Vliet Lake Association’s Lake Planning Grant attempts to document and review lakeshore sanitary systems and their impact on the lake’s health. While it is well established that nutrient loading, in particular phosphorus, is a strong determinant for excessive fertility, the greatest proportion of this loading comes from nature in the form of runoff from landmasses. Nonetheless, a percentage can also come from runoff leaching from septic fields, malfunctioning septic tanks, and at its worst, from septics running directly into the lake. What the Lake study would like to insure is increased sanitary system condition awareness from property owners and an acceptance of responsibility for their maintenance.

Any property owner who has a septic system that was installed after July 1, 1980 is or can very easily get on the “maintenance program” which is mandated by the State and administered by the County. There is a “gray area” for certain systems installed between 1980 and 1985. This program simply notifies the owner every three years to have their tank pumped and/or inspected. The person pumping the tank then endorses the card received by the owner and the card is returned to the County indicating compliance. Vilas County has one of the highest compliance rates for tank maintenance of any county in the State.

For pre-1980 tanks and systems the issue is more complex. Contrary to what some owners would like to believe, there is no “grandfathering” or alternative standards no matter the age of the system. The tank and field must comply with current standards. When an existing property is now sold there is a septic system review for pre-1980 systems, which requires a soil boring to determine tank and field conditions and adequacy. This assumes the system hasn’t already been checked and reviewed through the efforts of the previous owner. Current charges for soil boring range from $300.00 to $500.00 and include a final report documenting the soil strata and the system compliance or failure.

If the system passes the owner is placed on the maintenance program. If the system fails the State mandates installation of a new septic system enforced by the County. A normal failure (without immediate health concerns) allows the owner a one-year period to achieve compliance. Determination of direct runoff (immediate health concern) to waterways or adjacent properties may reduce that time period to as little as 60 days. This is a serious consideration for a property owner since doing the responsible thing could lead to some substantial expenses.

According to our preliminary study of septic records at the Vilas County Court House, slightly more than half of Van Vliet properties are in the maintenance system. Being a responsible steward for your lake property involves all aspects of your land use. This includes your sanitary system. If you are reluctant to have your system tested the minimum you should consider is to have your tank pumped as recommended, generally every three years based on occupancy and amount of time spent on the premises.

For further information on septic system requirements and/or data on your particular system call Vilas County Zoning at 715 479-3620 or visit with Zoning Agent Jim Janet on Tuesdays between 9am and 11:30 am at the Presque Isle Community Center. If you feel the information appearing in the current survey is incorrect please contact Lake Association President Jeff Burke @ 715 686-2557 or email him @ cte26875@centurytel.net