Profile picture for mikegunnz

Cesspool vs Septic

Can someone please explain to me the difference b/w a cesspool system and septic system?  I've looked online and cant find much info other that cesspool is essentially an "oldschool" septic system.  Does anyone know what the differences are, and what (if any) are the disadvantages of an old cesspool system vs today's septic systems? 

 

(FYI: I'm house hunting and one of the houses I'm looking at has cesspool)

  • August 21 2008 - US
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Answers (9)

Profile picture for sunnyview
Someone else may be able to provide more info, but I thought that a cesspool was more of an open dry filtering system without a holding tank. "a cesspool is a dry well for the disposal of sewage. Liquids leach out promptly if soil conditions allow. Some solids decay and are leached out after some time. Some solids accumulate, eventually blocking the escape of liquids, causing the familiar cesspool failure or overflow."

A septic system is a where "sewerwater enters the first chamber of the tank, allowing solids to settle and scum to float. The settled solids are anaerobically digested reducing the volume of solids. The liquid component flows through the dividing wall into the second chamber where further settlement takes place with the excess liquid then draining in a relatively clear condition from the outlet into the leach field, also referred to as a drain field, or seepage field."

I believe that the main difference is that septic systems have more than one stage to them unlike the older cesspit or cesspool. They hold the waste longer to give the solids a chance to break down more so that there is less risk of contamination/overflow.

Wiki describes the two types in detail, but hopefully someone will be able to answer from experience.
  • August 21 2008
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Profile picture for Mike_oxafloppin

while I can tell you all about a spetic system , how they work , and how they are built I will admit I couldnt tell you a single thing about a cesspool   other than to wager a guess similar to sunnviews.

  • August 21 2008
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Profile picture for SoCal Engr

Mike,

 

Try this link: http://www.plumbing-basics.com/cesspool-septic-tanks.htm.

 

Also, if you just google on "cesspool septic", there are a ton of links.

  • August 22 2008
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Profile picture for mikegunnz

Thanks guys, from the sound of it, (from posts and links)  a cesspool is not a good idea.  Its a shame bc there is a new house(old house rebuilt from foundation up) that is for sale at a decent price, but that is the only draw back.  Time to keep on looking.

  • August 22 2008
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Profile picture for WoodyWW

IMO, septic systems are also a huge potential source of expensive problems, don't last forever, & when they need to be replaced, cost $10's of  thousands. So you should do as much research on septic systems as possible before buying a house with one.

 

I'm no expert, but a cesspoolsounds way more awful. Unless: You can negotiate the price of the house down so  you can afford to have a new septic system put in.  Buying a house with a 20-30 y.o. septic system: well, I'd also want to budget for the worst case......

  • August 22 2008
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Profile picture for blue screen exile

I've heard a lot about composting toilets used in certain parts of Mexico.

 

It is a much more environmentally friendly alternative, but you probably couldn't get a permit for one here.  I don't think you can get a permit for a cesspool either, so it looks as if upgrading may be required, depending on condition and when grandfathered in.

 

Most urban areas in the United States now have sewer systems where sewage is treated in bulk by a county, other government agency, or utility.  Though local treatment and reuse of sewage may be more ecologically sound, there is a high risk of contamination of the ground water, thus is usually not allowed in densly populated areas.

 

  • August 24 2008
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Profile picture for blue screen exile

By the way, most realtors use terms very loosely, so I wouldn't put too much weight on what someone else said it was... I would probably either check it myself or have it be one of the items for a home inspector to check out when reviewing the property.

 

  • August 24 2008
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Profile picture for sunnyview
Pasadenan, that is brillant! What about a composting toilet? Here on the West coast they are becoming somewhat trendy in certain areas. I think they range in cost, but I did see one for about $1500. The biggest problem that I have heard about with them is getting the proper permits and finding an inspector that is familiar enough with the installation to sign off your plumbing permit. You also have to use slightly different toilet paper that breaks down better, but they supposedly have no smell is installed properly. They are also very eco friendly. You would still need a septic or cesspool system for your sink/shower/grey water, but I would think that would significantly reduce issues for overflow or soil contamination. It might be worth calling your local County/City/Township code official to find out whether they allow them in your area. It also might be much cheaper than replacing the old cesspool and even more functional.
  • August 25 2008
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Profile picture for ochsnola
In response to your question "What is a Cesspool?  In the early 30's we used a cesspool to store the waste water from our house,  It was merely a big, wide hole in the ground, deep enough to hold several gallons of waste. My husband built a cover of lumber, leaving a man-hole in the center  Solids settled to the bottom of the cesspool, but we often used a special pump to remove some of the water --- until it filled up again!  Today, we use a Septic Tank made of cement, with a draining system, several rows of tile buried slightly under ground.  Chemicals destroy the solids in a Septic tank, but occasionally, we have to have i cleaned".
 
  • August 01 2014
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