Cesspit vs Septic Tank: What’s The Difference?

If you live in a property that is not connected to the public sewerage system, you’re going to need a separate system that helps to dispose of your waste. In these cases, you’re going to have either a cesspit or a septic tank. Although many people believe that these two systems are essentially the same, there are major differences that you need to understand.

Basically, a cesspit is just a holding tank for your waste that does not treat the waste in any way and needs to be emptied quite regularly. On the other hand, a septic tank uses a special process to treat your waste and allows the treated wastewater to flow away into a soakaway or a stream.

Let’s see how these two systems work in more detail.


How Does A Cesspit Work?


If you have a cesspit on your property, you’ll find that this is just an underground holding tank for your household waste. The waste is not treated in any way and, therefore, it needs to be emptied at least every month by a licensed contractor.

This means that a cesspit does require a high level of maintenance and not really the most preferable way of dealing with your household waste. However, for some home owners this may be the only choice.

On properties that fail the soakaway soil test, there is no alternative but to use a cesspit. Similarly, your property may not have a surface water drain or other suitable watercourse that the treated wastewater can be released into. If this is the case, then you will need a cesspit that will need to be emptied around once a month.

Most times, cesspits are only in situations where a temporary sewerage system is needed such as construction sites. This minimises the maintenance required in emptying the storage tank. They might also be used in campsites because chemicals cannot be used with septic systems.

Apart from the high maintenance costs, another disadvantage of using cesspits is that they can be a major health hazard if they happen to overflow. For this reason, cesspits are actually banned in many countries. In the UK, it’s a major offence to have a cesspit overflow.

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    How Does A Septic Tank Work?


    A septic tank system is a much better way for home owners to go off-grid and not have to connect to the public sewer. This is because the waste inside a septic tank is treated before it is allowed to drain away generally, into a soakaway.

    Much like a cesspit, the holding tank in a septic system is also buried underground. The treatment system in a septic tank is quite basic though. There are two chamber for the waste.

    Firstly, the waste flows into the first chamber and in this chamber, the solids will settle to the bottom and start to decompose. At the same time, the liquid waste is allowed to flow into the second chamber and will then move through into the soakaway.

    The decomposition of the solid waste relies on the use of bacteria. Therefore, if you have a septic system installed, you should avoid using any type of chemical products when cleaning the toilet. These will interfere with the natural decomposition process of the solid waste.

    Although septic tank requires much less maintenance than a cesspit, it will still need to serviced on a periodic basis by a contractor.


    What Is A Soakaway?


    Simply put, a soakaway is a drainage system installed into the ground near the septic tank. It consists of a hole in the ground that is filled with coarse stones or other types of rubble.

    When the treated wastewater flows into the soakaway, any solids will remain in the drain while the treated liquid is allowed to disperse into the surrounding soil. This has to happen in a way that prevents flooding. This is precisely why some properties are not suitable for this type of system.



    Are There Any Types Of Cleaning Products That You Can Use With A Septic Tank?


    Although it’s paramount that you don’t use chemical cleaning products in a septic toilet, there are biologically friendly products that you can use. Bear in mind too, that all of your waste water will flow into the septic tank.

    Therefore, you should not use any chemical cleaning products around your home at all. You need to select biodegradable products that will often be labelled that they’re safe to use with septic systems.

    You also have to be careful what you do and don’t flush down the toilet and the kitchen sink as you definitely don’t want to cause a blockage in the pipes in your septic system. Any type of blockage has the danger of overflowing the system and causing a flood of household waste in your yard.


    Why You Should Keep Your Septic Tank Well Maintained


    It’s vitally important that you enlist a professional on a regular basis to inspect, maintain and empty your septic tank. In fact, if your septic tank is not working correctly, the wastewater that is being expelled may not be treated effectively and may contain harmful bacteria.

    This is certainly not what you want to release into the surrounding waterways. Keep in mind too, that large trees anywhere near the tank can have big tough roots that may have the ability to penetrate the tank causing leakage problems.

    If you have a septic system on your property, feel free to contact us here at Jonny’s Drains to have your system regularly serviced. A regular maintenance call will ensure that your system is working effectively and means that you can have peace of mind that you’re not polluting the local waterways.


    How Long Will A Septic Tank Normally Last?


    Older properties may have a steel septic tank installed. These have a life expectancy of around 15 to 20 years. Conversely, these days only plastic or fibreglass tanks are installed and these usually have a life expectancy of around 20 to 30 years.


    In Summary


    Although both cesspits and septic tanks are primarily used for dealing with household waste when the property is not connected to a public sewer, they are quite different.

    A cesspit is basically only a holding tank and needs to be emptied monthly while a septic tank does treat the waste and releases the treated wastewater back into the surrounding ground.

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