Vilas County Zoning - Septic

In response to the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency, beginning March 26, 2020 public access to the Vilas County Courthouse will be limited.  Please see our "Home" tab for details or click here to access Zoning Department guidance for the closure. 

Click here for information regarding the Safer at Home Order and your septic system


Vilas County Zoning & Planning is responsible for permitting and inspection private onsite wastewater treatment systems (POWTS) - commonly called septic systems - throughout Vilas County. For questions regarding septic sytems, please contact the sanitary department at (715) 479-3619 or the Deputy Zoning Administrator for your town.  Please click here for a list of Deputy Zoning Administrators.

  All POWTS installations, non-plumbing septic system installations, and reconnections require an inspection prior to covering. Mounds, at-grade, and sand fill systems require inspections of both the plowed layer prior to construction, and of the mechanical components before capping or covering. All inspections require 24 hours notice or they will be subject to a same day inspection fee of $105. Inspections must be called in to (715) 479-3619 or e-mailed to before 4:00 PM Central Time the day prior to installation. You must speak to a staff member or receive a response in order for your inspection to be assured.
Beginning January 1, 2020 Vilas County Zoning & Planning is no longer accepting EH 115 forms for any purpose.  Any repair, alteration, tank replacement, subdivision or condominium involving a POWTS utilizing an EH 115 form for installation will require a single soil boring.  EH 115 forms are also no longer accepted for new POWTS installations.  Contact our Sanitary Department at (715) 479-3619 for more information.
Don't forget to contact Digger's Hotline at least three (3) business days prior to any excavation.
Over 21,000 homes and businesses in Vilas County are served by septic systems.  Septic systems work by first separating liquids; solids; and fats, oils, and grease in a septic tank.  The liquid is then moved through a filter and moved by gravity or a pump to a leach bed where it is disbursed into the ground.  The leachbed material and native soils clean the liquid effluent before it is returned to the groundwater.  For more information on how septic systems work, contact the Vilas County Zoning & Planning Department at (715) 479-3619.


The Vilas County Land & Water Conservation Department has grant funding available for well abandonment.  Click here for more information. 


State Sanitary Permits


Vilas County is the agent for issuing sanitary permits for the installation of POWTS in Vilas County. Permits are required prior to the installation or modification of all POWTS. All permits must be signed with original signatures by a Wisconsin licensed Master Plumber or Master Plumber-Restricted Service. Vilas County only requires one copy of the application, which must be accompanied by a Vilas County Sanitary Checklist and the appropriate fee. Certain holding tank and pre-treatment systems require additional paperwork. Contact the Sanitary Department at (715) 479-3619 for more information.


County Sanitary Permits


The Vilas County Private Sewage System Ordinance requires permits for certain activities including but not limited to reconnections, the installation of an exterior pump crock, or a non-plumbing septic system (NPSS) such as a privy or composting toilet. Certain types of County Sanitary Permits have additional paperwork required. Contact the Sanitary Department at (715) 479-3619 for more information.


State Plan Review


Vilas County Zoning & Planning has received agent status for state plan review of non-pressurized in-ground POWTS with a design flow <3000 gallons per day (gpd). State plan review fees are as follows:

  • 0 - 1000 gpd design flow: $175.00 plus permit fees
  • 1001 - 3000 gpd design flow: $225.00 plus permit fees

All pressurized systems, individual site designs, and commercial non-pressurized in ground systems > 3000 gpd design flow must be submitted to the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services for plan review prior to submission to Vilas County.


Sanitary Maintenance Program


Vilas County Zoning & Planning runs a sanitary maintenance program in accordance with the Vilas County Private Sewage System Ordinance and Wisconsin Administrative Code SPS 383.255. The over 22,000 identified POWTS in Vilas County are subjected to a required pumping and/or inspection once every three years.  All POWTS receive a sanitary maintenance card for this pumping/inspection but systems installed using antiquated methods of soils work may require a verification using modern methods under certain circumstances. Please contact the Deputy Zoning Administrator for the town in which your property is located if you have questions regarding the sanitary maintenance program.


Wisconsin Fund


The program commonly known as the "Wisconsin Fund" provides reimbursement for a portion of the cost of replacing failing POWTS. The POWTS must be discharging efflutent to the groundwater, surface water, or ground surface, or backing up into the structure which it serves. Funds are available only to those who meet certain eligibility requirements. For more information please contact the Deputy Zoning Administrator for the town in which your property is located.

The State of Wisconsin has announced changes to the Wisconsin Fund program.  Click here for more information.


Continuing Education Opportunities


The following continuing education opportunites are available for those in the POWTS installation/inspection field. Click on the session for more information, including contact info and how to sign up. Inclusion on this website does not constitute an endorsement of the training or any of its providers by Vilas County.

DSPS has developed a waiver request process for tradespeople who were unable to attain the necessary continuing education credits due to the COVID-19 coronavirus public health emergency.  For more information:

Plumbers click here

POWTS Inspectors, POWTS Maintainers, and Certified Soil Testers click here



Miscellaneous Information



Code & Ordinance





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