What’s the difference between a cesspit and a septic tank?

What’s the difference between a cesspit and a septic tank?

Both cesspits and septic tanks collect wastewater and sewage from households and businesses that are not connected to the mains sewer.

A cesspit is a sealed underground tank that simply collects wastewater and sewage. There is no processing or treatment involved. A cesspit is usually located underground with a manhole cover giving access for waste collection.

Cesspits need to be emptied regularly. The time between empties depends on the size of the property, number of occupants and the size of the tank itself – it may need to be emptied monthly, quarterly or annually, or any point in between.

In contrast, septic tanks use a simple treatment process which allows the treated wastewater to drain away to a soakaway or stream. A soakaway is a hole dug in the ground and filled with rubble and coarse stones, designed to disperse water back into the surrounding ground without flooding.

A septic tank has two chambers and is buried underground in the same way as a cesspit. As wastewater enters the first tank, solids settle at the bottom and begin to decompose, while liquid flows through to the second chamber. This allows any smaller suspended solids to settle and the water to exit the tank through the soakaway.

It’s advisable to have sludge removed from the septic tank regularly, ideally every six months. Bacteria in the tank is vital to the biological decomposition process, so over-use of biological cleaning products and bleach is not recommended – use biologically friendly household products instead.

Whether you have a cesspit or septic tank (or are connected to the mains drainage system for that matter), only ever flush pee, poo and paper down the toilet. That means no sanitary items, wet wipes, food waste, fat, grease or anything else.  Blockages can cause flooding.

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