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Plan Review for Industrial Wastewater Systems

A wastewater treatment system that receives industrial wastewater and discharges effluent to surface water or groundwater is subject to the administrative rules of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Approval needed prior to start of construction

It is necessary that system owners receive department approval of plans and specifications prior to initiating construction on any industrial wastewater treatment system. This applies to both new construction and modification of existing facilities and includes monitoring devices and groundwater monitoring wells. Some treatment system modifications do not require plan approval. For example replacement of equipment, such as pumps, blowers or mixers, with no significant change in capacity do not require plan approval. Additionally, site preparation (limited to clearing, grubbing and rough grading) may proceed prior to plan approval.

Whether or not plan approval is required the department should be kept informed of any planned modifications. Also note that the standard requirement covering “planned changes” in an industrial WPDES permit may apply to a wastewater treatment system modification.

Requirement for submittals by a professional engineer

The plans and specifications generally must be signed and sealed by a professional engineer registered in Wisconsin. For certain industrial wastewater treatment facilities that do not affect public health and for groundwater monitoring wells, the requirements for submittal by a professional engineer may be waived at the discretion of the department. Factors which will be considered in granting such a waiver include the nature and size of the facility, evidence of the individual's qualifications to design such specialized facilities, and the absence of public health and safety concerns. If you wish to pursue a waiver, contact the department prior to preparing and submitting plans to determine whether you are eligible.

Timeline for department review

State statutes and codes provide that the department approve, conditionally approve or reject plans and specifications within 90 days of receipt of acceptable plans and specifications, unless a time extension is granted. Department staff will try to complete the review as soon after receipt of a complete submittal as possible; however, depending upon workload on other projects, it may take the full 90 days in some instances. An expedited review process is available for certain projects.

Preliminary plans

Prior to developing the construction plans and specifications, the department recommends the submittal of a preliminary plan that generally describes the anticipated wastewater treatment method. The review of the preliminary plan will enable the system owner to obtain initial feedback from the department on the overall reasonableness of the proposal with regard to state regulations and water quality protection goals. This early consultation may save time and money in the long run.

Complete submittals require an engineering design report

A complete submittal shall contain an engineering design report, treatment system plan drawings, and specifications. For additional guidance, see engineering design report guidance. To reduce the review time for a project it is important to provide a complete and straightforward submittal. Incomplete submittals lead to delays and extra staff time on the reviews. To make the most efficient use of staff time, submittals that are obviously incomplete will be returned for completion and resubmittal.

Construction permits

If the project involves placement of a structure or material in, near or over the waters of the state, it will also be necessary to receive a permit under Chapter 30, Wis. Stats. An application for such a permit should be made to the department regional office serving your area. For additional information on Chapter 30 permits see waterway and wetland permits.

Industrial treatment facilities which discharge wastewater to publicly owned treatment works are reviewed differently. See industrial pretreatment systems for more information.

Contact information

Plans and specifications for systems discharging to surface waters or land (groundwater) should be sent to:

Jason Knutson
Wastewater Section Chief
Bureau of Water Quality
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
PO Box 7921
Madison WI 53707-7921