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Cesspool vs Septic Tank: What Are the Differences?



It’s time to talk about something that stinks: Residential waste management.

No one likes to think about what happens to their waste after they flush it down the toilet. However, for those not connected to mainline sewer systems, what happens to that waste can cost up to $15,000 to fix or replace if something malfunctions.

The two main systems for handling this waste without city sewage are septic tanks and cesspools. What’s the difference between a cesspool vs. septic tank? Here’s what you need to know.

What Is a Cesspool?

For starters, let’s define what a cesspool is. While you’ve likely seen certain sectors of the internet compared to cesspools/cesspits, it’s not only a term of derogation.

A cesspool is the world’s oldest means of handling human waste. In cesspools, wastewater gets pumped into a pit that has concrete, perforated walls, and an open bottom. If you bought a particularly old house, it likely has a cesspool rather than a septic system or connection to the city sewers.

Pros of Having a Cesspool

We wish we could give you some positive information here, but aside from perhaps their historical value, there are very few pros to having a cesspool. They’re an outdated system that causes more problems than it solves.

The best we can offer in favor of cesspools is that installing them is cheap, and you don’t have to worry about paying a city water utility bill. If you’re passionate about living off the grid, cesspools can assist in that endeavor.

Cons of Having a Cesspool

However, as we mentioned above, cesspools are an outdated system that leaches wastewater into the soil. This can lead to environmental catastrophe in your immediate area. Especially since the cesspool does not clean the wastewater and relies upon the soil to do so.

What’s worse, if any of the perforations in the concrete become blocked, the cesspool can’t drain. This leads to a gross overflow and a stinking mess for you to clean up. It could even cause entire sections of your yard to collapse.

Also, in many areas, cesspools are now illegal. That’s why one of the best cesspool tips we have for you is, well, don’t have one. Upgrade to a septic tank.

Read Also: Overhead Water Tank Cleaning in 5 Simple Steps

What Is a Septic Tank?

When it comes to the battle of cesspool vs. septic tank, the septic tank is the clear winner. This is a modern adaptation of the ancient cesspool that also collects all the wastewater from a home.

However, septic tanks can filter and treat the wastewater flowing into them. They do this by separating solids and liquids and using bacteria to eat up the solid parts of the waste. Then, gravel or sand filter out the rest.

Pros of Having a Septic Tank

As we mentioned above, septic tanks actually treat your wastewater, as opposed to leaving it there to sit. This makes it much healthier for the environment.

Septic tanks don’t require as much cleaning as cesspools do. They’re closed units that function with pumps, so aside from regular cleanings, you don’t need to tend them as much.

Do you think your septic tank needs maintenance? If so, you can click here for more info about the services that local plumbers and waste management companies can provide.

Cons of Having a Septic Tank

Unfortunately, while septic tanks are a better system than cesspools as a whole, they don’t come without drawbacks.

If your septic tank ever cracks or the pump breaks, it can lead to costly repairs or groundwater contamination. Maintenance for these tanks can get pricey, and if you don’t maintain them, they will cause serious health issues.

Also, no matter how good your septic system may be, all septic tanks eventually need replacement.

How Can I Keep My Septic System Running Well?

Whether you use a cesspool or a septic tank, you need to keep certain things in mind to ensure that they can function for as long as possible. To avoid potential complications, you must:

Be Careful What You Flush and Drain

In either of these systems, you should only flush human waste and water down the toilets or drains. Food particles and feminine hygiene products take too long to break down.

In the case of septic tanks, you must also take care not to use the wrong antibacterial soap, as that can kill the bacteria helping to filter the wastewater.

Not Park on the Drain Field or Near the Cesspool

The areas surrounding septic tanks and cesspools are under enough pressure as it is. If you park on top of the drain field or too close to the cesspool, you could prompt a collapse.

Even if that worst-case scenario doesn’t come to pass, compacted earth deprives the septic tank’s bacteria of the necessary oxygen.

Avoid Planting Trees Near the Septic Tank

This should seem obvious, but tree roots tend to grow downwards through the earth. This can cause cracks in your septic system, cesspool, or the pipes leading to it as the roots encroach upon it.

Clean Out the Scum Regularly

Cesspools and septic tanks need regular cleaning to keep functioning. If that isn’t something you can handle yourself, you can always call a professional. No matter how it gets done, you must clean out the scum to avoid clogs, backups, and septic floods.

Cesspool vs. Septic Tank: Which Is Better?

In the matter of cesspool vs. septic tank, we’ve determined that the septic tank is the superior waste management system. Septic tanks don’t pose as much of a risk of contaminating groundwater because they can clean and treat wastewater, whereas cesspools cannot.

Cesspools might prove marginally cheaper than septic tanks. However, when it comes to functionality, they cannot match up. You should only use them if you have no other choice.

We hope this guide to non-city-dependent waste treatment was helpful to you. If you’d like to read more content like this, then check out our blog today!

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