Septic Tank Vs Cesspool – What’s The Difference?

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If you own a property that doesn’t have access to a municipal sewage system, you may need to consider alternative methods for waste management. Two common options are septic tanks and cesspools. In this article “Septic Tank Vs Cesspool – What`s the difference?“, we will explore the purposes, appearances, installation costs, pumping frequency, and permit requirements associated with septic tanks and cesspools. By the end, you will have a clearer understanding of these two systems and their distinctions.

Difference Between Cesspool And Septic Tank

When it comes to wastewater management for properties without access to a municipal sewage system, two common options are cesspools and septic tanks. They have distinct characteristics that set them apart. Understanding these differences is crucial for making an informed decision about the most suitable option for your property.

1. Purposes

What is a Cesspool?

A cesspool is a wastewater storage system that is typically installed when the soil conditions are unsuitable for an onsite septic system. It can also serve as a temporary solution before a more permanent sewage system is put in place. Cesspools are more commonly found in older properties built before 1973. Their primary function is to store wastewater until it is removed through pumping. Essentially, a cesspool functions as a holding tank.

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.

Why Would a House Have a Cesspool?

There are a few reasons why a house may have a cesspool. As mentioned earlier, unsuitable soil conditions for a septic system can necessitate the installation of a cesspool. Additionally, in cases where a property is undergoing construction or renovation, a cesspool may be used temporarily until a more permanent sewage system can be established.

What Is A Septic Tank?

cesspool vs 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.

2) Appearances

Several features can help distinguish between a cesspool and a septic tank. Let’s take a closer look at them:

  1. Number of Lids: One of the primary distinguishing factors between a cesspool and a septic tank is the number of lids or covers they have. Cesspools typically have only one lid or cover, which provides access to the tank. In contrast, septic tanks have two lids or covers. One lid is for accessing the inlet pipe, and the other lid is for accessing the outlet pipe.
  2. Tank Pipes: Another key difference lies in the pipes connected to the tank. Cesspools lack outlet pipes since they are designed to store waste without any specific outlet system. On the other hand, septic tanks have both inlet and outlet pipes. The inlet pipe allows waste to enter the tank, while the outlet pipe allows treated effluent to flow out.
  3. Baffles and Partition Walls: Septic tanks have additional features called baffles and partition walls, which help in the separation and treatment of waste. These components are absent in cesspools. Baffles are placed near the inlet and outlet pipes of septic tanks to prevent the direct flow of solids into the outlet, allowing for the settling of sludge. Partition walls are present in septic tanks to create separate compartments, facilitating the natural breakdown of waste.
  4. Drain Field: One crucial component that differentiates septic tanks from cesspools is the presence of a drain field. The drain field plays a vital role in a septic system by vigorously filtering bacteria and pathogens from the effluent as it seeps into the ground. It consists of a network of perforated pipes or trenches buried in the soil. Cesspools, however, do not have a drain field since they are essentially storage tanks that do not treat the waste.
  5. Pumps: Septic tanks often incorporate pumps to move the effluent from the tank to the drain field. These pumps ensure the proper distribution of the treated wastewater. In contrast, cesspools do not have pumps.
  6. Filter: Septic tanks typically feature effluent filters, which further enhance the treatment process. These filters trap solid particles and prevent them from entering the drain field, reducing the risk of clogging and potential damage to the system. Cesspools do not have effluent filters as they do not involve the same level of treatment and filtration.
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By considering these distinguishing features, such as the number of lids, presence of tank pipes, baffles and partition walls, the existence of a drain field, pumps, and filters, it becomes easier to differentiate between cesspools and septic tanks. Understanding these differences is important for proper maintenance and ensuring the effective functioning of these wastewater treatment systems.

3. Installation Costs: Septic Tank vs Cesspool

When it comes to installation costs, cesspools tend to be more straightforward and affordable. They typically range from $3,000 to $8,000. In contrast, septic tanks can cost between $8,000 and $30,000. The higher cost of septic tanks is due to their increased complexity and labor-intensive installation process, which may involve soil percolation tests, permits, and other requirements.

4. Pumping Frequency: Cesspool vs Septic Tank

The pumping frequency of both cesspools and septic tanks depends on the household’s wastewater production. However, cesspools generally require more frequent pumping. They need to be pumped out every 2 to 4 weeks to prevent overflow and maintain proper functionality. In comparison, septic tanks typically require pumping every 3 to 5 years. It’s important to note that if a garbage disposal is used, the pumping frequency of a septic tank may increase.

5. Environmental Impact

Cesspools are more likely to have a negative environmental impact than septic tanks because they do not treat the wastewater.

6. Permit Requirements: Cesspool vs Septic Tank

The permit requirements for installing cesspools or septic tanks vary depending on the local regulations and jurisdiction. In many areas, the installation of new cesspools is prohibited due to environmental concerns and the potential for groundwater contamination. Septic tank installations typically require permits and adherence to specific guidelines to ensure compliance with health and environmental standards. It’s essential to check with the local authorities and obtain the necessary permits before installing either system.

How do I know If I have a septic tank?

The septic tank is a waste treatment system that uses bacteria to break down organic waste and release it into the ground. If your property has one, you might find the following signs of its presence:

  • The septic tank needs to be pumped out every 3-5 years.
  • The ground above the tank has 2-4 manholes in close proximity to each other.
  • Vent pipes are also a sign that you have a septic tank. The role of septic tank air vent pipe is to allow the gasses to escape. Septic vent pipes prevent buildup of dangerous septic gases. They are a crucial part of any septic system
  • Property records from your local city government should indicate whether you have a septic tank or cesspool.
  • Properties built after 1973 or have undergone renovations are most likely to have a septic system.

How do I know If I have a cesspool?

While cesspools were once a common method of wastewater disposal, they are now largely outdated and have been replaced by more advanced septic systems. Here are some signs that your property may have a cesspool:

  1. One of the most obvious signs that your property has a cesspool is if the tank fills up quickly and needs to be emptied frequently. Cesspools are not designed to handle large amounts of wastewater, so if you find yourself needing to have the tank emptied on a regular basis, it may be a sign that your property has a cesspool.
  2. Another sign that your property may have a cesspool is if there is only one manhole in the ground above the tank. Most septic systems have multiple manholes to allow for easy access and maintenance, but cesspools typically only have one. If you notice that there is only one manhole on your property, it may be a sign that you have a cesspool.
  3. Old properties built before 1973 are likely to have a cesspool. Cesspools were once a common method of wastewater disposal. They have been largely phased out in favor of more advanced septic systems. If your property was built before 1973 and has not undergone any recent renovations or upgrades, there is a good chance that it has a cesspool.

If you suspect that your property has a cesspool, it is important to have it inspected by a professional. Cesspools can be a health hazard and can cause damage to your property if they are not properly maintained.

How many Septic Systems in the Us?

The septic system is the most common type of sewage treatment in the United States. There are over 60 million septic systems in the country, and it is estimated that there will be more than 80 million by 2030.

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The advantages of a septic tank are:

1. A septic tank needs little maintenance and can last for decades without any need for major repair or replacement.

2. Septic tanks are available in various shapes and sizes to suit different needs, from small residential systems to large commercial systems.

3. A septic system can be installed in any location, even on steep hillsides.

4. Septic tanks are an environmentally friendly sanitation systems. Septic bacteria breaks down sewage waste into liquid effluent. Soil in the drain field filter effluent and remove any remaining pollutants.

Cesspool Problems

The cons of cesspool are as follows:

  • A major downside of cesspool is that there are highly susceptible to sewage overflow and backup.
  • They require frequent maintenance and pumping out by sewage disposal tanker and this is costly.
  • Are Cesspools Environmentally Friendly? The answer is a resounding No! Cesspools do not treat sewage. The untreated sewage contaminates the environment when cesspools overflow. The EPA banned Large-capacity cesspools in April 2000 because of the significant contamination hazard they pose to the environment. Excessive amounts of cesspool waste contaminate groundwater with higher levels of nitrates and coliform bacteria.

Why Are Cesspits A Health Risk?

Cesspits can pose a health risk for a number of reasons:

  1. Contamination: Cesspits are typically used to store human waste, which can contain harmful bacteria and pathogens. If the cesspit is not properly sealed or maintained, these harmful substances can seep into the surrounding soil and water, potentially contaminating the local environment and posing a risk to human health.
  2. Odors: Cesspits can give off unpleasant odors, especially if they are not properly maintained. These odors can be a nuisance to people living near the cesspit and can also be a sign of a problem with the cesspit, such as a blockage or overflow.
  3. Insects and vermin: Cesspits can attract insects and vermin, such as flies and rats, which can carry diseases and pose a risk to human health.
  4. Flooding: Cesspits are not designed to handle large amounts of water, and if the surrounding area floods, the cesspit can overflow, which can cause waste to contaminate the surrounding soil and water, posing a risk to human health.
  5. Leaching: If the cesspit is not properly sealed, the waste inside can seep into the surrounding soil and groundwater, potentially contaminating the local environment and posing a risk to human health.

septic tank vs cesspool: FAQ

We have compiled a list of the most common septic tank vs cesspool frequently asked questions:

A failing cesspool can be a major inconvenience and a potential health hazard for any homeowner. There are several signs to look out for that can indicate that your cesspool is in need of attention.

  • One of the most obvious signs of a failing cesspool is a strong foul-smelling odor. This odor can be particularly pungent when the cesspool is full or close to capacity. In some cases, the smell may be strong enough to be detected inside the home, even with the windows closed. If you notice a strong, foul-smelling odor coming from your cesspool, it is likely time to have it pumped.
  • Another common sign of a failing cesspool is clogged drains. This can occur when the cesspool is full and cannot accommodate any more waste. As a result, waste may begin to back up into the drains, causing them to become clogged. This can lead to slow-moving or completely blocked drains, which can be both frustrating and unsanitary. If you notice that your drains are clogged, it may be time to have your cesspool pumped.
  • In addition to clogged drains, you may also notice damp patches around the area where your cesspool is located. These patches can be unsightly and can also indicate that the cesspool is full, backed up and in need of pumping. Damp patches may also be a sign of a leak in the cesspool, which can be dangerous if left unrepaired. If you notice damp patches around your cesspool, it is important to have it checked out by a professional as soon as possible.

Overall, it is important to keep an eye out for the signs of a failing cesspool. If you notice any of the above symptoms, it is likely time to have your cesspool pumped. Ignoring these signs can lead to more serious problems, such as leaks or overflows, which can be both inconvenient and potentially hazardous. By having your cesspool regularly inspected and pumped, you can help to ensure that it is functioning properly and does not pose a threat to your health or the environment.

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Cesspools are prone to overflows. They should be buried deep in the ground, at least 6 feet.

A cesspool that is well-maintained can last for 20-40 years. However, regular maintenance is crucial for the longevity of a cesspool, as a neglected cesspool can fail much sooner. It is important to have the cesspool inspected and pumped out on a regular basis to ensure that it is functioning properly.

In the United States, the term “cesspool” refers to a place that collects sewage. The word “cesspool” comes from the Middle English word “cistern”, which means a reservoir for rainwater or groundwater. Cisterns were originally built to collect rainwater but were later used to collect and store human waste.
The word “cesspool” also refers to any place that gathers a lot of garbage, such as a trash dump or landfill site. The term “cesspool” is as an adjective that describes something that is dirty or disgusting. For example, a “slimy cesspool of lies.”

One of the major drawbacks of cesspools is that they are not legal in many countries. In the United States, for example, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned large-capacity cesspools in April 2000. In the United Kingdom, the Public Health Act of 1936 makes it a crime to allow cesspools to overflow or leak. This law is designed to prevent the contamination of groundwater and surface water, which can pose a serious health risk. Additionally, cesspools are illegal in Scotland, where they are considered to be a public health hazard.

Overall, while cesspools may have some benefits, the disadvantages of these systems far outweigh the advantages. As a result, cesspools are not legal in many countries, including the United States and the UK. If you are considering installing a cesspool on your property, it is important to check the local laws and regulations to ensure that you are not violating any laws.

No, a cesspool and a septic tank are not the same thing. While they both serve the purpose of containing and treating sewage, they differ in their design and function. A cesspool is an underground pit where sewage is collected and stored without an outlet for drainage, while a septic tank is a larger tank that treats and stores wastewater before discharging it into a drain field. Septic tanks are more efficient and environmentally friendly than cesspools, which are generally discouraged due to their potential environmental hazards.

In the US, Converting Cesspool To Septic Cost varies depending on the size of the household, but it is typically around $6,500 to $20,000. Cesspool to septic conversions are becoming more popular since septic systems are more environmentally friendly.

A cesspool can collapse for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Tree root infestation: Tree roots can grow into the cesspool and cause damage to the walls and structure, eventually leading to collapse.
  • Freezing temperatures: If the ground around a cesspool freezes and expands, it can put pressure on the cesspool and cause it to crack or collapse.
  • Driving over the cesspool: If heavy vehicles or equipment are driven over a cesspool, it can cause damage to the walls and structure, eventually leading to collapse.
  • Age and neglect: A cesspool that is not properly maintained or is not functioning properly can also collapse. As cesspools age, the walls and structure can become weakened and collapse.
  • Overloading: Cesspools are designed to only hold a certain amount of waste. If more waste is added, it can cause the cesspool to collapse.

It’s important to note that cesspools are not allowed in many places now, instead septic systems are used.

septic tank vs cesspool: final thoughts

After weighing the pros and cons in our septic tank vs cesspool article, it is clear that cesspools are bad for our environment and should be replaced with septic tanks. Our planet is in a dire situation. There are many reasons for this, but one of the most important ones is that we have failed to take care of it. We need to change our lifestyle if we want to save our planet.

Environmental problems are becoming more and more prominent in the world. In order to avoid these problems, we need to make sure that we are taking good care of the environment by changing our lifestyle and reducing pollution.