Cesspools, Septic Tanks and Tracing Drains

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There are two methods for dealing with sewage from houses that are not connected to the main sewer.

A cesspool is simply a lined hole in the ground where the sewage collects. In time, the pool becomes full and has to be emptied either by the local council or by a private firm. Many houses have cesspools as small as 2.25 cu m (500 gallons); a family of four could fill this in as little as a week. Current Building Regulations require a capacity of 18 cu m. Modern cesspools may be prefabricated from glassfibre or concrete rings and simply placed into an already excavated hole; old ones would be made of brick, carefully sealed so that the sewage cannot escape and water in the surrounding ground cannot get in.

A septic tank is in effect a small sewage works. In it, the waste is broken down by bacteria until it is liquefied and rendered harmless: the resultant liquid can be disĀ¬posed of into a ditch or stream. Usually two different chambers are needed in a septic tank: in some cases the second chamber which contains a filter bed can be dispensed with and the half-treated sewage filtered through the sub-soil via land drains.

A well-constructed septic tank should need little maintenance apart from a periodic (say once a year) emptying of sludge. It is important not to use excessive amounts of disinfectant or detergents in the house, otherwise the bacteriological action could be slowed down and the tank clogged up.

Rain-water often drains into a soakaway. This can be a hole in the ground of one or two cubic metres capacity filled with rubble. The hole can be lined with bricks laid dry and covered with a close-fitting concrete slab. Rain-water drains into this hole and in time soaks away into the surrounding ground.

Tracing drains
Tracing the layout of a drain system is fairly simple – provided you remember that there should be an inspection chamber at all junctions and bends and that drains should run in straight lines between the chambers.

By pouring water down the various fittings in the house, it should be possible to determine which waste pipe connects to which drain and where each branch drain connects to the main drain. Fluorescent drain dyes can be used as an aid, if necessary. Any drains that do not show water after this test may be connected to a neighbour’s drainage system.

A plan with the deeds of the house may also show the layout of the drains; or the local council may know.


Guide to Cesspool Maintenance

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Cesspools accumulate sewage after a certain amount of time. Accumulation of sludge can be prevented through regular cesspool cleaning. The problem is it’s hard to figure out if the tank becomes full. It takes experienced professionals to do a check to find out if your cesspool is saturated. However, there are simple ways to find out if your cesspool is likely to be full without having to call for professional service.

Here are the signs:

1. Your toilet takes a longer time to drain completely upon flushing.

2. Water is regurgitating to the sinks, tubs, or toilets. This is an obvious sign.

3. Gurgling sound can be heard when flushing the toilet or turning the taps on.

4. The soil around the cesspool turns wet. Lush grasses may grow on the area. Leaking sewage may provide water and nutrients to the grasses or bushes.

5. The affected soil may sink. Look for unusual depressions in the ground over the sewer.

6. Foul odor leaks. It can be detected inside or outside the house.

Maintaining your septic tanks is the only way to keep it working properly. Much inconvenience results from neglecting maintenance tasks. Some delay regular maintenance because of the high cost it demands. At the same time, the clean-up can also be irksome. Because it is a dirty job, most homeowners ask other people to do it.

Regular maintenance involves primary cleaning of septic tanks, which serve as reservoir of solid waste matter. Septic tanks prevent passage of solid waste into the cesspools, whose purpose is to drain liquid waste into the surrounding soil. When solid waste matter leaks into the cesspool, unpleasant problems occur. Only regular maintenance of septic tanks keeps such leakages from happening.

How are septic tanks maintained?

1. Septic tanks are emptied by pumping out sludge that may otherwise build up at the bottom of tanks. The pumping out of sludge should be done once a year or once in two years.

2. The sludge on the baffles of septic tanks should be removed to avoid clogs that may build up along pipes.

3. Tank lids should be examined. If there are holes or slits, they should be sealed. Breaks on the lid may cause rainwater to seep into the tank, causing it to become full within a short time.

4. Ground surface under which the septic tank is laid should be surveyed from time to time. Check for unusual dampness or for sink holes. These are indications that the tank underneath must be checked.

5. Chemicals should not be flushed down the drain. Some chemicals are strong enough to corrode pipes and affect the durability of septic tanks and cesspools.

6. Rain gutters should be directed away from the septic tank, or else, the tank will easily fill with water. Rainwater can be directed to a water treatment system to make it usable.

7. Food leftovers, plastics, tissue paper, and other forms of garbage should not be flushed down the sink or flushed into the toilet. If these scraps don’t clog your pipes, they will end up in the sewers.

Maintenance is often conducted by professionals. Do not do the inspection on your own if you lack training. Accumulated gas in tanks can be hazardous.



Finding the Right Cesspool Service Company

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Cesspools require regular cleaning and maintenance, which should only be done by experienced professionals. Looking for a cesspool cleaning company may not be difficult if there are only two or three cesspool/septic tank service companies in town. The Yellow Pages may be checked for these companies. The internet can also be checked. Most cesspool cleaners can be seen on the internet now. Refine your search by adding the name of your place when looking for a cesspool pumping company. If you cannot find a cesspool cleaner in your area, there should be one in a nearby town.

Consider the Cost

Now, there are certain things that should be kept in mind when choosing a cesspool cleaner. First is the cost. The charged rate depends on a few factors like services needed and travel distance. More services required mean higher cost. Cesspool pumping companies do have fixed costs for each type of service. However, you may shoulder transportation cost. That is why it is advantageous to look for a nearby company as much as possible. At the same time, different companies charge different rates. Know the reason behind this cost disparity. Is the company that charges higher rates offering better quality of service?

Consider their Reputation

If a friend told you about a badly done cesspool cleaning, it would be wise not to contact the service provider. Reputable cesspool cleaners take pride in the quality of work they carry out. Reviews about a company can be seen online. You should find out what previous customers say about the services offered by a cesspool maintenance company. The problem is that some websites only display good testimonials, so make sure to take a look at several websites.

Ask a Friend

Recommendations from associates should be considered. Someone you know may provide you the contact details of his cesspool cleaner. Ask if he was satisfied with the work done.

Rely On Experience

You probably have contacted a maintenance service and you were disappointed. Would you phone that company in the future? Sometimes, you have no choice but simply just get the services of a company and hope you did the right choice. At times, you may be surprised. Keep the number of the cesspool cleaner that did a great job.

Ask Questions

When phoning a servicing company, tell them your concerns and ask what they could possibly do. Good cesspool maintenance professionals will offer free advice without introducing their quotes. Reputable cesspool cleaners should be concerned about their customer.

Take note that even the best company may have bad records too. You may want to give a second chance to professionals who do haphazard jobs. See if you can call the company back if you are dissatisfied. If they still do a terrible job, you may consider another company.

Sometimes it takes your own experience to know if a cesspool cleaner’s services are worth the money you pay. You always have the option to seek another company in case you are disappointed. The good thing is that most cesspool pumping and cleaning companies work really hard to please their customers.