Rich Kremer, Wisconsin Public Radio

A heavy snowmelt and series of rainstorms in northwestern Wisconsin have saturated the soil and are causing septic systems to back up.

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Most northwestern counties have received between 8 and 16 inches more precipitation from snow and rain this year than normal.

“The ground is oversaturated, so their drain fields can’t dissipate the water like it’s supposed to,” said Scott Poppe, who owns Scott’s Septic Pumping in Hayward. “It’s starting to back up into the septic tanks or in their house.”

Normally, septic tanks with drain fields only need to be pumped every two or three years, but with all the rain, Poppe said that many need to be drained now.

For Poppe, that’s good for business. But for some septic haulers, the wet ground is actually a disadvantage. Kris Vieceli, the co-owner of Northwest Sanitary in Ladysmith, said that normally in northwestern Wisconsin septic haulers spread treated waste on farm fields. If those fields are too wet, however, they have to go elsewhere.

“Right now, so many of those fields are not available because of the heavy rains, so we’re having to haul to the treatment plants,” said Vieceli.

Vieceli said that means some of their drivers have to drive an hour or more just to unload their trucks. That takes time and costs money.

“It’s creating some serious issues,” she said. “(It’s) labor, a lot of extra labor, a lot of extra fuel and not enough hours in the day.”

The National Weather Service says northwestern Wisconsin has been in the path of a stagnant storm track that has been very consistent in dumping lots of rain.

More WPR news is available on KUWS-FM 91.3 and online at www.wpr.org.