Cesspool Vs Septic Tank

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Cesspools and septic tanks are both popular options for wastewater management, but they have important differences. Learn more in our detailed guide “Cesspool Vs Septic Tank”.

Septic tanks and cesspools are both underground wastewater management systems that are commonly used in areas without access to a municipal sewage system. While these two systems have some similarities, there are significant differences between them that make them suitable for different purposes. In this article, we will explore the difference between cesspools and septic tanks and help you choose the right wastewater management system for your needs.

Cesspool Vs Septic Tank: What Is A Cesspool?

A cesspool is a simple underground pit or holding tank that collects raw sewage and wastewater. It is typically made of concrete, brick, or other impermeable materials that prevent the wastewater from leaching into the surrounding soil. The wastewater in a cesspool is not treated in any way, and there is no outlet or drainage system. As a result, cesspools require frequent pumping and maintenance to prevent overflow and environmental pollution.

What Is A Septic Tank?

A septic tank is a more advanced wastewater management system that includes a series of interconnected chambers and filters. Unlike a cesspool, septic tanks are designed to treat the wastewater before it is discharged into the soil. When wastewater enters a septic tank, the solids settle to the bottom and form a sludge layer, while the lighter materials such as grease and oil float to the top and form a scum layer. The liquid layer in the middle, called effluent, is then discharged into a drainage field where it is further treated by the soil.

Cesspool Vs Septic Tank: Differences

  1. Wastewater Treatment: As mentioned earlier, cesspools do not treat the wastewater in any way, while septic tanks use anaerobic bacteria and a drain field to treat that wastewater before it is discharged into the soil.
  2. Lifespan: Septic tanks have a longer lifespan than cesspools due to their filtration system and drainage field.
  3. Cost: Cesspools are generally less expensive to install than septic tanks.
  4. Maintenance: Cesspools require more frequent pumping and maintenance than septic tanks. Without proper maintenance, cesspools can overflow and cause environmental pollution.
  5. Capacity: Cesspools have a smaller capacity than septic tanks and can only hold a limited amount of wastewater. As a result, they need to be pumped more frequently.
  6. Environmental Impact: Cesspools are more likely to have a negative environmental impact than septic tanks because they do not treat the wastewater.

Choosing The Right Wastewater Management System

Cesspool Vs Septic Tank

When choosing between a cesspool and a septic tank, several factors need to be considered, including the size of your property, the number of occupants, the local regulations, and the available budget. If you have a small property and a limited budget, a cesspool may be a suitable option. However, if you have a larger property and want a more advanced wastewater management system, a septic tank may be a better choice.

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Cesspools are often used in areas where it is not possible to install a septic tank. This may be due to a variety of factors, such as poor soil conditions, limited space, or other site-specific challenges. Unlike septic tanks, which rely on natural processes to treat and dispose of wastewater, cesspools simply hold the wastewater until it can be pumped out and disposed of properly. While cesspools can be a viable option in certain situations, it’s important to work with a qualified professional (+1 877-851-7125) to determine if this system is appropriate for your property’s needs and local regulations. It’s also important to maintain and monitor a cesspool carefully to ensure that it remains functional and does not pose a health or environmental risk.

How Do I Know If I Have A Cesspool Or Septic Tank

At some point in every homeowner’s life, there comes a time when you need to know what type of sewage system your home uses. Whether it’s because you’re planning to build an addition, install a pool, or just want to know what you’re dealing with, identifying your sewage system is an essential part of home ownership.

In this section, we will explore the various types of sewage systems that are commonly found in residential properties, and how to identify which one your home uses. We will also provide some basic information on how each type of system works and what maintenance is required to keep it functioning properly.

Types of Sewage Systems

There are several types of sewage systems that are commonly used in residential properties. These include:

  1. Public Sewer System: In areas where public sewer systems are available, homes are typically connected to a centralized sewage treatment plant via a network of pipes. The waste from your home is carried away by these pipes, and treated at the plant.
  2. Septic System: A septic system is a self-contained sewage treatment system that is installed on your property. The waste from your home is collected in a large tank, where it is naturally broken down by bacteria. The treated water is then released into a drain field on your property.
  3. Cesspool: A cesspool is a holding tank.

Cesspool Vs Septic Tank: Identifying Your Sewage System

Now that you are familiar with the three main types of sewage systems, it’s time to identify which one your home uses. If you own a property that is not connected to the public sewer system, you might have a cesspool or septic tank. But how do you know which one you have? Here are a few ways to find out:

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Inspect Your Property

One way to identify if you have a cesspool or septic tank is to inspect your property and look underground. You can use a soil probe to identify your main sewer line, and follow the line to where it leads you. Most septic systems are located 5 to 20 feet from the house and are usually buried 4 to 7 inches below the ground. Keep an eye out for the septic tank riser or lid as you inspect your property. Unnatural hills or raised mounds are also an indication of a septic tank on your property.

Contact Your Local City Government

Another way to find out if you have a cesspool or septic tank is to contact your local city government. They may have an as-built or property survey map that can show you if there is a septic system on your property. Additionally, they may have a septic tank map that can give you more information about the size and location of your septic system. You can also check county records for building permits that may have information about the type of system installed.

Check Your Water Bill

Another clue that you have a cesspool or septic tank is your water bill. If there is a charge for a sewer amount, it means that you are not connected to the public sewer system, and most likely have a cesspool or septic tank.

When Was Your Property Built?

Homes built before 1973 and haven’t gone through renovations most likely have cesspools. This is because cesspools were widely used before septic tanks became popular in the 1970s. If your property was built before this time, it is likely that you have a cesspool.

To sum up, there are a few ways to determine if you have a cesspool or septic tank on your property. You can inspect your property and look underground, contact your local city government, check your water bill, or consider the age of your property. Knowing which type of system you have is important for maintenance and upkeep, so make sure to identify which one you have and keep up with routine inspections and cleanings.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here is a list of the most common Frequently Asked Question about Cesspool Vs Septic Tank:

Cesspool Treatment

Cesspool Treatment

It’s important to note that cesspools are outdated and can have negative impacts on the environment and public health. The best long-term solution is to upgrade to a modern wastewater treatment system, such as a septic system or a municipal sewage system. However, there are products on the market that help treat and maintain cesspools.


Septifix is one such product that is marketed as a cesspool treatment that can prevent odors and corrosion. Septifix contains a blend of natural enzymes and bacteria that can help break down and digest organic waste in the cesspool, reducing odors and extending the life of the system.

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How deep is a cesspool

The depth at which a cesspool is buried can vary depending on local regulations and soil conditions, but they are typically buried between 3 to 5 feet below the surface. The approximate dimensions of a traditional cesspool can range from 8 to 10 feet in diameter and anywhere from 8 to 20 feet deep.

Converting cesspool to septic cost

The cost of converting a cesspool to a septic system can vary depending on several factors, including the size of the property, the condition of the existing cesspool, and the specific requirements and regulations in the local area. However, the estimated cost of converting a cesspool to a septic system typically ranges from $5,000 to $30,000. This cost includes the removal and disposal of the existing cesspool, installation of the new septic system, and any necessary permits and inspections.

Why do cesspools collapse?

Cesspools can collapse or cave in due to several reasons, including:

  1. Heavy Load: Cesspools made of bricks or blocks can easily collapse or cave in if they are subjected to heavy loads from vehicles, construction equipment, or even foot traffic above them. This can cause the walls and floor of the cesspool to weaken and eventually collapse.
  2. Poor Backfill: If the cesspool is not properly backfilled after it has been installed, the walls and floor can become unstable and collapse. This is because the soil around the cesspool can become saturated and compacted, which can cause the walls and floor to shift and collapse.
  3. Empty Cesspool: When a cesspool is empty, there is no pressure on the walls and floor to hold them in place. This can cause the walls and floor to collapse inward, especially if there is heavy rain or other external factors that can cause the soil to shift.

It’s important to note that cesspools can pose a significant safety risk if they collapse, and it’s recommended that property owners have them inspected regularly to ensure they are in good condition. Additionally, it’s important to consider upgrading to a modern wastewater treatment system, such as a septic system, to avoid potential problems associated with cesspools.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, while cesspools and septic tanks are both underground wastewater management systems, they have significant differences in terms of wastewater treatment, maintenance, capacity, and environmental impact. When choosing between these two options, it is essential to consider your specific needs and requirements to ensure that you choose the most suitable wastewater management system for your property.