Options run the gamut as Plan Commission talks about possible ordinance
A Town of Belgium resident’s request to put a holding tank on his mother’s property has triggered a discussion on property owners’ rights and the possible adoption of a new ordinance.
Ozaukee County Sanitation and Zoning Specialist Barry Sullivan presented options on regulating holding tanks at the Jan. 20 Plan Commission meeting, along with nine other municipalities’ restrictions on holding tanks, including the towns of Fredonia and Saukville.
“You have a lot of leeway,” Sullivan said.
Holding tanks are leak-proof steel drums that collect sewage. When nearly full, waste is pumped into trucks and hauled to a public sewage treatment system. One drawback is property owners, to avoid paying for pumping and transport, will sometimes get a sump pump for the tank and pump the contents onto land, often in road ditches.
Sullivan called a holding tank a “failure-prone system” and said the town is responsible to make sure holding tanks are pumped properly.
At least one tank in town is not being pumped properly. Town Chairman Tom Winker reminded the commission that E. coli was found in Harrington Beach State Park.
“It’s pretty obvious that somebody out there is pumping their holding tank,” he said.
Before making a decision on holding tanks, Winker said he wanted to bring in experts to clarify options that would be best for the town.
“It’s our responsibility as stewards of the land that we do it right,” he said.
Zoning Administrator and commission member Charlie Parks said he doesn’t remember the town ever discussing holding tanks, but said they can facilitate a misuse of property.
While the town has a policy on holding tanks, that won’t hold up in court.
“We need a town ordinance,” Parks said.
The town allows residents to use holding tanks if they wish, or septic or mound systems. That could continue, or restrictions could be put on holding tanks.
Sullivan presented six ordinance options in print and added a seventh verbally, including:
ν Do not allow holding tanks except in floodplain areas to replace failing private onsite water treatment systems (POWTS);
ν Allow holding tanks for replacing failed POWTS on existing structures;
ν Do not allow holding tanks for new or existing structures unless no other POWTS can be used;
ν Allow holding tanks for non-residential structures;
ν Allow holding tanks for existing residential structures if no other POWTS can be used;
ν Do not allow holding tanks for newly created parcels and require soil and site evaluation report for land division;
ν Allow temporary holding tank (i.e. if a house is under construction and another POWTS is not yet installed).
The Town of Fredonia allows holding tanks as a “system of last resort” and requires soil testing. Holding tanks are systems of choice for new commercial, agricultural, industrial or public buildings.
The Town of Saukville prohibits holding tanks on all new construction and to replace a POWTS on existing residences if another option can work.
“So you guys have to decide, what restrictions — if any — you want to put on these,” said Ed Pfister, Ozaukee County sanitation and zoning coordinator.
Parks said the town should examine the pros and cons of all the options and what impact they could make.
“What you’re doing for one, you have to allow for everybody,” he said. “Personally, I don’t care where this goes. I just want to talk about it.”
Sullivan suggested asking other municipalities why they developed their restrictions.
The topic will be placed on next month’s Plan Commission agenda.