Before state wastewater standards went into effect in the 1960s, raw sewage could flow directly to a stream without treatment. Despite the standards, this continues in many areas today. In areas called "unsewered communities," outdated and poorly functioning septic tanks still allow untreated wastewater into our waters. The DNR works with these communities to find funding sources and alternative treatment systems, and to allow adequate time to upgrade the systems. As a number of communities across the state have shown, there are affordable options for building a community wastewater treatment system to protect residents' health and water quality.
An unsewered community doesn't have to be an incorporated city. In this case, a "community" has 10 or more residential homes with one or more houses per acre. It's "unsewered" if it lacks a central sewage treatment system or if most of its septic systems don't meet state standards.
There's help and information available for smaller communities. Please go to the
Private septic systems for further information.
Technical and financial assistance are available if your community needs to explore options for adequate wastewater treatment. First, contact your local DNR field office
or a regional utility management organization in your area for help understanding the planning process and finding financial assistance.
Regional utility management organizations (UMOs):
While a utility management organization can help people in your community search and apply for funding to install a wastewater system, there are other funding opportunities to look into.
Next, your community leaders will want to hire an engineer to evaluate the community's needs and propose solutions. The DNR offers white papers and additional information on alternative wastewater treatment options
that your engineer may want to explore.
Once an engineer has prepared a plan to address the wastewater needs of your community, residents will want to review the plan. They will want to evaluate options, discuss the affordability of each option and decide where to apply for funding. You and your elected officials may want to hold public meetings to determine which options are best for your community.
Disadvantaged Community Status
Some communities may qualify as "disadvantaged" with regards to meeting federal and state wastewater regulations. The DNR rules that implement the 2011 disadvantaged community legislation became effective on January 16, 2013. For more information on these rules and on how to qualify as a disadvantaged community, please see the NPDES Rules page.