It is estimated that over three million UK households are still using cesspits or septic tanks, opting out of using the standard main sewer system – usually out of necessity. Cesspits may be regarded as a backward or old-fashioned system, but they still have benefits for some homeowners in certain areas of the country. So, why do cesspits still exist, what advantages can they offer to households, and they are a feasible option for the modern day?
What are cesspits?
A cesspit is an underground tank in which a property’s wastewater and sewage is collected, and is an alternative to using the conventional mains sewage system. As it is a sealed vessel, it requires emptying at regular intervals to prevent overflow – a vent is usually part of the construction to allow gases to escape effectively.
The dirty history of cesspits
The very first historical cesspits were constructed from loose bricks, leading to contamination of surrounding land and water – this posed a threat to public health at the time, which included typhoid and cholera epidemics. Gradually, rules and regulations came into effect to improve the sanitary conditions of these pits, including constructing them from less permeable materials and emptying them more regularly. Nowadays, health and safety has vastly improved, and there are rules laid out in many countries to prevent cesspits being built full stop, or to prevent them from being built in environmentally-sensitive areas.
Why do cesspits still exist?
Unlike other countries, cesspits are not banned in the UK, and therefore some rural homes still have functioning cesspits installed on the land – this is most often due to the fact that these properties tend to be located at an inconvenient distance away from the main sewage systems. These homes therefore have to rely on cesspits as a way of collecting wastewater and sewage. From this, people who inherit or buy these homes with cesspits already installed may be required to keep using them as the local infrastructure may not be able to support the house using standard sewage systems.
Some people may also opt to retreat more into nature and build their own rural getaways – sometimes this can result in cesspit construction, though this demands planning permission and adherence to building regulations. While this may seem like a step backwards, societally, it’s actually a practical necessity for buildings in certain locations.
Cesspits do have their upsides. Being off the main sewer system means cesspit owners are exempt from paying sewage handling fees, which are a standard part of a water bill. However, charges are incurred from the frequent emptying of a cesspit which is vital for its smooth and safe operation.
How to maintain a cesspit
Despite saving you money on your water bill, maintenance is incredibly important for the safe use of a cesspit. It must be frequently emptied to prevent overflow – as the sewage is untreated, it can be dangerous to the surrounding land for overflows to occur.
You must not attempt to handle cesspit waste yourself – even lifting the lid can release the build-up of toxic gases. A reliable company, such as Express Drainage Solutions, can arrange a regular emptying service based on the size of your home and the number of occupants, creating a plan that perfectly suits you. The waste material will be pumped out of the cesspit and into specialist vehicles, before being transported away to a registered processing plant to be dealt with in a safe manner.
For a dedicated cesspit emptying service in London and beyond, Express Drainage Solutions can help. We’ve provided drainage solutions to tens of thousands of homes and businesses across the region, including regular and professional cesspit emptying and maintenance – and all for a competitive price. To find out how we can assist you, simply get in touch with our qualified drainage experts.