What is A Cesspit and How Does it Work?

cesspit top view

What is A Cesspit and How Does it Work?

If you’ve ever wondered about cesspits that lay beneath your property, look no further than this article. A cesspit is a crucial but often overlooked component of many sewage systems. If you’re a property owner curious about your property’s waste management system, we aim to answer the questions you may have regarding cesspits, what they are and how they work.

Cesspits are essentially holding tanks for waste and sewage. Unlike septic tanks, cesspits only have an inbound pipe, meaning that they take in the waste and do not let it out, storing it inside it instead. This means that cesspits require regular emptying for them to operate without issues.

Knowing how cesspits work, there are many other questions that arise. In this article, we aim to answer all the questions around cesspits, in order for you to ensure that yours is always running optimally. 

What is A Cesspit?

A cesspit, often referred to as a cesspool in some regions, is a concealed underground reservoir or storage tank designed for the containment and temporary storage of wastewater and sewage. Unlike more advanced sewage treatment systems like septic tanks, cesspits do not treat or process the waste; instead, they serve as a basic solution for waste storage. Typically made from concrete, plastic, or other durable materials, these underground chambers vary in size depending on the property’s specific needs and local regulations.

Cesspits function by receiving wastewater from an inlet pipe connecting to various sources within a building, such as toilets, sinks, and showers, as well as rainwater runoff from the surrounding area. Once inside the cesspit, solid waste settles at the bottom while liquid waste remains on top. Over time, the accumulated solids are broken down by bacterial activity, however, this occurs at a much slower rate than in more advanced sewage treatment systems. 

Understanding the operation and importance of a cesspit is essential for property owners, and anyone concerned about sanitation and wastewater management. 

What is The Difference Between A Cesspit & Septic Tank?

Cesspits and septic tanks are both common methods of wastewater and sewage management, but they differ significantly in their design, functionality, and maintenance requirements. 

A cesspit, also known as a cesspool, is a basic underground chamber primarily designed for the temporary storage of sewage and wastewater. Unlike septic tanks, cesspits do not employ natural bacterial processes for waste breakdown and treatment. Instead, they serve as passive reservoirs, accumulating both liquid and solid waste over time. Cesspits require more frequent emptying. They are ideal for properties with minimal water usage or where access to a proper sewage system is challenging.

A septic tank, on the other hand, is a more complex and self-contained system that employs naturally occurring bacteria to break down solids in the wastewater. These tanks facilitate the separation of solids and liquids, with the liquids flowing into a drain field for further treatment by soil and microbes. Septic tanks require less frequent maintenance compared to cesspits and are suitable for properties with a larger volume of wastewater. The frequency of septic tank pumping varies but typically occurs every three to five years, depending on usage.

Why Does A Cesspit Need Emptying?

The question of why a cesspit requires periodic emptying is fundamental to understanding its functionality and the responsibilities that come with it. Unlike other sewage treatment systems, cesspits do not have the capacity to treat or process waste efficiently. Instead, they serve as simple storage containers that accumulate solid and liquid waste over time. As wastewater enters the cesspit, solids settle at the bottom while liquids remain on top. However, this natural separation is not a permanent solution. The accumulation of solids can eventually reach a point where it compromises the cesspit’s capacity, potentially leading to overflow, blockages, or even damage. To prevent these issues and ensure proper functioning, regular cesspit emptying is essential. 

How Often Does A Cesspit Need Emptying?

Determining the frequency of cesspit emptying is a crucial aspect of responsible ownership or management. The answer to this question depends on various factors, including the size of the cesspit, its capacity, the volume of wastewater generated, and the number of occupants using the system. Generally, cesspits require more frequent emptying than septic tanks, as they lack the natural treatment processes that septic systems offer. On average, cesspits may need to be emptied every one to three years, but this interval can vary significantly. 

How To Know When Your Cesspit Needs Emptying

Recognising the right time for cesspit emptying is essential to prevent potential issues like overflow and blockages. While the frequency of emptying can vary based on several factors, certain signs can serve as reliable indicators that your cesspit is reaching its capacity. Common signs include a foul odour emanating from drains or the cesspit itself, slow drainage in sinks and toilets, gurgling sounds in plumbing fixtures, and the emergence of wet or soggy areas around the cesspit location. When witnessing any or all of these signs, this would be the best time to get in touch with a team of specialists in cesspit emptying and servicing.

Where Does The Waste Go After The Cesspit is Emptied?

Once a cesspit reaches its capacity and undergoes professional emptying, many people wonder about the fate of the collected waste. The process involves a carefully coordinated disposal method to ensure environmental compliance and public health standards. Typically, the collected cesspit waste is transported by vacuum trucks to specialised treatment facilities or designated disposal sites. At these locations, the waste undergoes further treatment, including separation of solids and liquids, and is then processed or disposed of in accordance with local regulations.

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