Most of us are content to just let our septic systems work without knowing how, but ignorance is not bliss when it comes to sewer issues.

Septic tanks and cesspools can both become serious problems without regular maintenance, so here’s a brief primer on how they work:

Septic Tanks

Septic tanks have a simple but effective design. Essentially, pipes carry waste water from your house and into a holding tank. This tank is sized based upon the number of people your house was built to contain. Solid waste sinks to the bottom of the tank, while liquid rises to the top and is released into what’s known as a drain field. The drain field is a large area of dirt which acts as a natural filter for the water. The particles in the water work their way down into the soil, where they are neutralized and act as fertilizer; in turn, the water evaporates cleanly into the air. Septic tanks are efficient, self-contained systems, but they do need to be pumped every few years in order to maintain their structural integrity and to keep working well.


Modern cesspools usually consist of a dual-cesspool system. Wastewater enters one cesspool, where it naturally separates into liquid and solid waste. The solid waste either drifts to the bottom of the tank or rises to the top, depending upon its composition. The liquid waste, on the other hand, moves through a pipe and into a second cesspool. This cesspool has multiple openings on all sides, which allow the liquid waste to flow into a drainage field much like a septic tank’s (and where a similar evaporation process takes place). The cesspool where the solid waste is ought to be pumped clear on a fairly frequent basis; the second cesspool won’t need to be cleaned so often. Homeowners with older homes should be cautious because there may be old, unused cesspools on the property that can collapse and cause serious damage. Be sure to have your plumbing company inspect your house plans and search your yard to prevent against this eventuality.

Here are some helpful links for this subject.

  1. What is the difference between septic tanks and cesspool?
  2. Septic tanks vs cesspools?


If you have a septic tank or cesspool in need of regular maintenance—or something more serious—then you should contact us. At YourTownCesspoolNY, we offer cesspool and septic services including installation, excavation, and sewer and drain cleaning. We also provide emergency plumbing. For more information, contact us today.

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