Wastewater Plan Review
DNR has returned to requiring paper submittals for most wastewater plan reviews. Some documents no longer require paper copies. View the table of required documents to verify document submittal requirements for each project type. Note that an electronic plan submittal portal is in development, so electronic submittal procedures will be changing in the future.
Clean Water Fund Program-Funded Projects: Please note that, given current review timelines, DNR may be unable to review new facility plan submittals in time for the fiscal year 2022 Clean Water Fund principal forgiveness application deadline of September 30, 2021. Please contact municipal plan review staff (listed under "Plan Review Contacts" below) if you have any questions about review timelines.
No person may commence, or cause to be commenced, construction of any reviewable project until final plans and specifications for such project have been reviewed and approved by the Department of Natural Resources (department) or until at least 90 days has elapsed since the submission of final plans and specifications to the department, and the department has not rejected the final plans and specifications pursuant to section and s. NR 108.03, Wis. Adm. Code and s. 281.41, Wis. Stats.
Section 281.41, Wis. Stats. and s. NR 108.03, Wis. Adm. Code, requires that complete final plans and specifications for any reviewable industrial and municipal wastewater system project to be submitted to the Department of Natural Resources (department). Section 281.41, Wis. Stats. and ch. NR 108, Wis. Adm. Code, also authorizes the department up to 90 days (~65 business days) to examine and approve, conditionally approve, or reject the plans and specifications. This time period for review may be extended by agreement with the owner if the plans and specifications cannot be reviewed within the specified time limitation due to circumstances beyond the control of the department or in the case of extensive installation involving expenditures of $350,000 or more. The extension shall not exceed 6 months.
Average Review Period
- Sanitary sewer extensions/modifications (including Lift Stations): 14 – 90 days
- All other reviewable projects: 30 – 90 days
Note: The review period of a submittal may be affected if the submittal is incomplete and the review is placed "on-hold" until necessary supplemental information is received. The plan review time period begins from the date that the complete final plans and specifications have been received by the department. Section 281.41, Wis. Stats. and ch. NR 108, Wis. Adm. Code, authorizes the department up to 90 days to examine and approve, conditionally approve, or reject the plans and specifications. There are no minimum review time periods provided in Wisconsin Statutes or Wisconsin Administrative Code for any reviewable project.
There are no wastewater plan review fees.
Plan Review Process Flow Chart
Plan submittal to Department ↓ Wastewater Section Chief assigns to Plan Reviewer ↓ Plan Reviewer makes initial complete submittal determination ↓ Reviewer sends acknowledgement of receipt to Owner and Design Engineer ↓ 90-day review period begins ↓ Reviewed pursuant to applicable design codes ↓ Reviewer mails out plan approval letter to Owner and Design Engineer
- Plan Submittal Requirements
Plan Submittal Requirements
A complete plan submittal varies with the type of project. The types of projects with their submittal requirements are listed by clicking the “Submittal Requirement by Project Type” button below.
Send completed plans and/or specifications for review to:
Jason Knutson, Wastewater Section Chief
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Bureau of Water Quality, WY/3
- For US Postal Service delivery use:
P.O. Box 7921
Madison, WI 53707-7921
- For UPS or hand delivery use:
101 S Webster Street
Madison, WI 53703
Professional Engineer Seal and Signature Requirements
Pursuant to s. NR 108.04(c), Wis. Adm. Code, final plans and specifications shall be submitted under the signature and the seal of a professional engineer registered in Wisconsin.
This requirement may be waived at the discretion of the department for:
- Certain industrial wastewater treatment facilities and industrial pretreatment facilities not affecting public health; and
- Groundwater monitoring systems.
Factors which shall be considered by the department when granting a waiver include:
- Nature and size of the facilities;
- Evidence of the individual’s qualifications to design such specialized facilities as may be proposed; and
- The absence of public health and safety concerns.
- For US Postal Service delivery use:
- Design Codes
Wisconsin Administration Code
Code Title NR 108 Requirements for Plans and Specifications Submittal for Reviewable Projects and Operations of Community Water Systems, Sewerage Systems and Industrial Wastewater Facilities NR 110 Sewerage Systems NR 113 Servicing Septic or Holding Tanks, Pumping Chambers, Grease Interceptors, Seepage Beds, Seepage Pits, Seepage Trenches, Privies or Portable Restrooms NR 140 Groundwater Quality NR 141 Groundwater Monitoring Well Requirements NR 162 Clean Water Fund Program NR 204 Domestic Sewage Sludge Management NR 206 Land Disposal of Municipal and Domestic Wastewaters NR 210 Sewage Treatment Works NR 211 General Pretreatment Requirements NR 213 Lining of Industrial Lagoons and Design of Storage Structures NR 214 Land Treatment of Industrial Liquid Wastes, By-Product Solids and Sludges
- When is a Wastewater System Plan Submittal Required?
When is a wastewater system plan submittal required?
As defined in s. NR 108.02(13), Wis. Adm. Code, “Reviewable project" means any construction or installation project for which a department approval is required pursuant to s. 281.41, Wis. Stats. The following projects are reviewable:
- Any new sewerage system;
- Any improvements, extensions or alterations of existing sewerage systems which may affect the quality or quantity of effluent or the location of any outfall;
- Any new industrial wastewater facility or any modification or alteration of an existing industrial wastewater facility, including compliance determination systems;
- Any new industrial pretreatment facility or any modification or alteration of an existing industrial pretreatment facility which may affect the quality or quantity of the discharge to a sewerage system;
- Any groundwater monitoring system associated with a wastewater treatment facility.
Construction means any placement, assembly or installation of facilities or equipment at the premises where such equipment will be used. (s. NR 108.02(2m), Wis. Adm. Code)
Compliance determination systems means devices, such as flow meters and mechanical sampling equipment, used to determine whether a discharge is complying with permit conditions. (s. NR 108.02(3), Wis. Adm. Code)
Industrial pretreatment facility means a facility which reduces or removes pollutants from industrial wastes prior to discharge to a publicly owned sewerage system. (s. NR 108.02(6), Wis. Adm. Code)
Industrial wastewater facility means a facility which reduces or removes pollutants from industrial wastes prior to discharge to waters of the state, other than through publicly owned treatment works. (s. NR 108.02(7), Wis. Adm. Code)
Groundwater monitoring system means wells, piezometers or other equipment used to determine groundwater quality or elevation. (s. NR 108.02(5), Wis. Adm. Code)
Sewerage System means all structures, including sewage treatment facilities, conduits and pipes, by which sewage is collected, treated, and disposed of, except plumbing inside and in connection with buildings served, and service pipes, from building to street main. (s. NR 108.02(14), Wis. Adm. Code)
Maintenance projects that do not require plan approval
A proposed project not meeting the criteria for a "reviewable project" is considered to be a "maintenance project" and does not need to be submitted for Department approval unless the project will be financed through the Clean Water Fund. Although a Department approval is not necessary, it is normally expected that maintenance work will be accomplished with materials and methods consistent with applicable state requirements for sewerage systems, thus maintaining or improving the system's structural integrity and level of performance. Any "sub-standard" component of an existing sewerage system may be required by the DNR to be brought into compliance with applicable state standards when a future reviewable project is submitted for that component, or related components. A maintenance project would also still be subject to other standard permits necessary for stream crossings, wetland impacts, dewatering or other construction related activities.
Whether or not formal plan approval is required, it is a good practice to keep the department’s compliance staff informed of any modifications.
Municipal Sewage Collection System Projects
For sewer rehabilitation or replacement projects, if a sewer is being repaired or replaced at the same location, and with the same pipe size and slope, then the project is considered a "maintenance project" and plans do not need to be submitted to the Department unless the project will be financed through the Clean Water Fund. For lift stations, if there is no relocation and if the replacement pumps or equipment being installed are substantially the same in design and function as the existing, then it would be classified as a maintenance project. All other sewer and lift station projects must be submitted for review.
Plan review is required for collection system projects financed through the Clean Water Fund. An abbreviated facilities plan process may be used for sewer rehabilitation or replacement projects. See the Municipal Wastewater Facility Planning page.
Treatment Facility Projects
The Department makes determinations on reviewable projects based on the potential effects on the quality or quantity of effluent. For example, a project may consist of replacing an aeration system with a different type of aeration system, but with the design goal of maintaining the same level of treatment and effluent quality. An aeration system is subject to NR 110 design requirements and is a critical element of any treatment process that potentially could affect effluent quality if not properly designed. Therefore, the project would be classified as a reviewable project regardless of whether a design capacity or performance change is proposed.
A reviewable project may also consist of modifications that do not directly have potential effects on the quality or quantity of effluent but are subject to design requirements in ch. NR 110, Wis. Adm. Code. For example, NR 110 contains building ventilation requirements for chlorine rooms and sludge processing rooms. A proposed project that would modify the ventilating system in these types of rooms at a wastewater plant would be considered a reviewable project and must be submitted for Department approval. Additional typical reviewable projects of this sort include:
- Sludge handling and processing systems.
- Proposed buildings to enclose chemical or sludge processing areas, or other areas subject to NR 110 ventilation or other building requirements.
- Proposed new or modified instrumentation and controls performing functions subject to NR 110 requirements.
- Proposed new or modified standby generators or other emergency operating provisions installed as an integral component in a lift station or treatment plant (not portable pumps or generators).
- Proposed new or modified monitoring devices used to determine compliance with WPDES permit requirements.
Clean Water Fund Loan Projects
Any project that will be seeking a state Clean Water Fund (CWF) loan must be submitted for Department plan review and approval, regardless of whether it would otherwise be classified as a maintenance project. All CWF projects must also have a facility plan approval under s. NR 110.09, Wis. Adm. Code, to demonstrate that the proposal is necessary and cost-effective.
Use of Existing Facilities or Structures
In some cases, no actual construction or installation is necessary because an existing structure is proposed for use. For example, an existing tank previously used for animal waste may be proposed for storage of municipal sludge or wastewater. A Department plan approval is still necessary because the project is proposing a new use for the structure as a component in a sewerage system. In these cases, the Department will normally require that a registered Wisconsin Professional Engineer inspect, and possibly test, the structure to verify that it is structurally sound and complies with applicable code requirements.
Site preparation work for industrial wastewater facilities and industrial pretreatment facilities may commence prior to the date of approval of plans and specifications. Site preparation work is limited to clearing, grubbing, and rough grading.
Other Projects Not Reviewed by the DNR
The department does not review building plumbing, the service pipes from buildings to municipally owned sewers, and small "Private Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems" ("POWTS") that are regulated by the Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS). Certain POWTS are subject to both DSPS and DNR regulation (more at large POWTS and POWTS receiving a combination of domestic and non-domestic wastewater).
- Expedited Plan Review Procedures
Expedited Plan Review
Section 281.41, Wis. Stats., gives the department authority to establish an expedited procedure for the review and approval of plans.
Limitations of expedited review
The expedited review procedure is limited to modifications to existing treatment facilities where all the following conditions are met:
- The project will not involve construction at a new site;
- The project will not change the overall treatment capacity;
- The project will not involve new treatment technology or a change of outfall location;
- The project will not result in significant environmental effects.
Projects qualifying for expedited plan review
Some examples of projects eligible for an expedited review include:
- Replacement of chlorination with ultraviolet disinfection
- Addition of screening or grit removal facilities
- Installation of chemical feed systems
- Modifications to aeration systems
- Installation of industrial equalization tanks
- Replacement of flow monitoring or sampling equipment
To help us improve the efficiency of the review process we are requiring Form 3400-205 to be submitted with ALL requests for plan approval. The form provides contact information and a project description. There is a box on the form to check if you are requesting an expedited review. Our goal is that within 30 days of receipt, the department will either: 1) issue an approval, or 2) identify any issues that preclude an expedited review. There is no fee for wastewater plan review or to request an expedited review.
Projects not Requiring Plan Approval
Plan approval is not required for every modification to a treatment plant. See the "When is a Wastewater System Plan Submittal Required?" tab above for guidance on reviewable projects. Whether or not formal plan approval is required, it is a good practice to keep the department’s compliance staff informed of any modifications.
Streamlined facilities planning requirements
We have developed additional information for streamlining the facilities planning requirements for some projects. See the Municipal Wastewater Facility Planning page.
- Plan Approval Terms and Conditions
Plan Approval Terms and Conditions
Once the final plans and specifications have been reviewed, the department will issue a plan approval. The plan approval letter will be sent to the owner of the system and a copy will be sent to the design engineer (if necessary).
A Department plan approval is a determination by the Department that project is in compliance with certain specific Wisconsin Statutes and Wisconsin Administrative Codes (as referenced in the Design Codes tab above). The approval of plans and specifications is not to be construed as a department determination on the issuance of a Wisconsin pollutant discharge elimination system permit, an opinion as to the ability of the proposed system to comply with effluent limitations in such permit, an approval of the environmental analysis that may be prepared for this project or an approval for any activities requiring a permit under ch. 30, 31, or 281, Stats. Approval of plans and specifications is also not to be construed as department certification of the ability of a proposed industrial pretreatment facility to comply with applicable pretreatment standards.
An issued approval for a collection system project is valid for 4 years after the approval letter date. An approval for a wastewater treatment facility project is valid for 2 years after the approval letter date. If the proposed construction has not commenced or if contracts for the work are not awarded within the 2 or 4-year approval terms, the approval becomes void. If an approved project is constructed in phases, the approval becomes void for any phase that has not commenced or had contracts awarded within the 2 or 4-year approval terms. If an approval becomes void, a completely new and updated submittal must be made to obtain a new Department approval.
The standard construction plan and specification approval conditions primarily relate to the following construction related activities.
The treatment system owner or its consultant must designate a resident project inspector. The inspector shall be knowledgeable regarding the proposed construction and be able to completely determine whether the improvements are being constructed in accordance with the Department approved plans and specifications and the conditions of the approval. The inspector shall be present on the work site as needed to assure proper construction and installation of the improvements. Hiring a resident inspector does not negate the owner's responsibility to assure proper construction and installation.
For sewerage system projects, a preconstruction conference must be held to familiarize the construction contractor(s) and the resident inspector(s) with the provisions and conditions of the approved plans and specifications. All projects must use erosion control measures that should also be addressed at the preconstruction conference.
For projects at existing treatment facilities, the facility must be operated effectively during construction to ensure that preconstruction treatment levels are maintained and that WPDES permit requirements are met. In many instances, the project plans and specifications may need to provide a detailed construction sequencing plan and/or identify alternative operating modes necessary to maintain treatment levels.
The Department must be notified when construction commences and again when construction is completed. An approval condition will specify Department contacts and may prescribe alternative notification requirements.
Significant changes to project designs that occur after plans and specifications are approved, but prior to the completion of construction, should be submitted to the Department as an amendment to the original approval. Any system additions or revisions occurring after construction is complete should be submitted as a new project. Minor project revisions do not need to be submitted to the Department if they will not affect the facility design or operation, or devices to determine permit compliance, or public health. In general, any changed component that is specifically subject to design code requirements, the plans and specifications shall be submitted to the Department. If uncertain what constitutes a significant change, contact the applicable Department plan reviewer (see the "Plan Review Contacts" tab below).
Wastewater system approvals are not product approvals
The Department conducts reviews for specific projects and issues plan approvals to the legal owner of the treatment system. Although certain products may be included and examined as part of these reviews, the Department does not issue approvals directly to manufacturers or suppliers for proprietary products. Construction plans and specifications should not consist of manufacturer or supplier literature that contains proprietary names or symbols.
- Plan Review Contacts
Wastewater Systems Plan Review Staff
The DNR plan review staff for wastewater systems are assigned in the wastewater section of the Water Quality Program. The program is also responsible for rule and guidance development for the wastewater systems plan review program.
These staff listings include both plan reviewers and other program staff to assist you.
Plan review contact information
Fax number for all plan review staff: 608-267-2800
Program administration and plan review in general
Wastewater Section Chief
PO Box 7921
Madison, WI 53707-7921
Municipal projects, septage storage facilities and large POWTS
Ashley Brechlin 608-267-7640 Andrew Dutcher 608-267-7610 Emma Lorenzen 608-267-7643 Gunilla Goulding 608-267-7625
Industrial wastewater systems
Nate Willis 608-266-3221 Trevor Moen 920-424-7883 Jonathan Hill 608-267-7627 Emma Lorenzen 608-267-7643
Sewer and lift station projects
Andrew Dutcher 608-267-7610
Pretreatment program projects
Jason Knutson 608-267-7894 Jonathan Hill 608-267-7627
Sewer Service Area Programs, contracts and grants management
Lisa Helmuth 608-266-7768
If you have questions on the plan submittal requirements or guidance for industrial or municipal systems, please contact a department plan reviewer listed above.