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SEPTIC SYSTEM INSPECT DIAGNOSE REPAIR
SEPTIC CARE INSTRUCTIONS
SEPTIC D-BOX INSPECTION
SEPTIC DRAINFIELD FAILURE DIAGNOSIS
SEPTIC DYE TEST PROCEDURE
SEPTIC FAILURE SIGNS
SEPTIC INSPECTION & TEST GUIDE
SEPTIC LIFE EXPECTANCY
SEPTIC SUPPLIES & PARTS
SEPTIC SYSTEM DESIGN ALTERNATIVES
SEPTIC SYSTEM DESIGN BASICS
SEPTIC SYSTEMS, HOME BUYERS GUIDE to
SEPTIC SYSTEM SAFETY WARNINGS
SEPTIC TREATMENTS & CHEMICALS
SEWAGE BACKUP PREVENTION
SEWAGE EJECTOR / GRINDER PUMPS
SEWER GAS ODORS
SEWER LINE REPLACEMENT
SINKHOLES, WARNING SIGNS
SOAKAWAY BED FAILURE DIAGNOSIS
SULPHUR & SEWER GAS SMELL SOURCES
TOILETS, INSPECT, INSTALL, REPAIR
TRAPS on PLUMBING FIXTURES
TREATMENTS & CHEMICALS, SEPTIC
VIDEO GUIDES: Septic Videos
WATER CONSERVATION MEASURES
WATER SOFTENERS & CONDITIONERS
WATER SUPPLY & DRAIN PIPING
WATER, WELLS, WATER TANKS: TESTING GUIDE
WASHING MACHINES & SEPTIC SYSTEMS
WASTEWATER TREATMENT BASICS
WINTERIZE A BUILDING
This document suggests methods for estimating the age of a cesspool. The age of a cesspool can assist an owner in evaluating its condition and planning for its maintenance or replacement. Readers should also see our companion document Cesspools which explains what a cesspool is, gives important safety and maintenance advice for cesspools, and defines the criteria for cesspool failure.
This material is a chapter of our Septic Systems Online Book: That document explains septic system inspection procedures, defects in onsite waste disposal systems, septic tank problems, septic drainfield problems, checklists of system components and things to ask. Septic system maintenance and pumping schedules. Citation of this article by reference to this website and brief quotation for the sole purpose of review are permitted.
Use of this information in books or pamphlets for sale is reserved to the author. Some technical review by industry experts has been completed-reviewers are listed at "References." Further review comments and content suggestions are welcome. Also see Septic System Life Expectancy. Home buyers who want less technical advice should see the Home Buyer's Guide to Septic Systems. Also see The Septic Systems Home Page.
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A cesspool combines the septic treatment tank and absorption system into a single component.
Several readers have written to ask if it is possible to determine the age of a cesspool A cesspool is pit into which sewage is discharged. Solids remain in the pit, effluent is absorbed into soil around the cesspool. Cesspools have a limited life and capacity, but they have been in use since the late 1400's (the beginning of the Renaissance).
While cesspools have been used for a long time, since the development of the more modern septic system (tank and drain field) cesspools may still be in use at old properties or even at newer ones (where permitted by local health departments) if there is not enough room for a conventional leach field.
Estimating the age and condition of anything which is buried is tricky, but not completely impossible. An estimate of the age of
a cesspool may assist the building owner in planning for its maintenance, repair, or replacement.
Recently a reader asked if one could estimate the age and usage of a building by evaluating its cesspool. I was somewhat doubtful of this approach as cesspools have been in use for such a long time and have used such a variety of materials. But it's a very interesting idea, and certainly bounds can be put on the age of a cesspool by noting how it was constructed. The following details suggest other means for estimating the age and perhaps indirectly the condition of a residential property cesspool.
Four Steps in Estimating and Evaluating the Age and Condition of a Cesspool
Here are a few suggestions about estimating cesspool age, all of which can be answered only by collecting historical information about the home and perhaps by excavating to inspect the cesspool system.
Cesspool Inspection & Testing Safety Warnings
*** SAFETY WARNING *** digging up or poking into old septic systems or cesspools risks discovering a collapsing and very dangerous system. Dig and poke and excavate with great care and using a professional and not with anyone working alone - falling into a collapsing cesspool can be a quick and ugly death.
In Summary: watch out for cave-ins, keep away: cesspools, particularly older site-built cesspools present a very high risk of collapse from an unsafe cover or following some types of service involving pumping, aeration, or hydro-jetting.
Adults or children should not walk over or even near cesspools because of the risk of falling-in followed by collapse, a virtually certain cause of death. If the presence of a cesspool is known or suspected at a property its location should be roped off to prevent access and it should be investigated by a professional. See Cesspool Safety for more details
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Technical Reviewers & References
Related Topics, found near the top of this page suggest articles closely related to this one.
Composting Toilets - Books & References
Design Manuals for Septic Systems
Greywater System Books
Onsite Wastewater Disposal Books