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Cesspit Maintenance: Your Questions Answered

Buying your dream house in the countryside is a great feeling but there are considerations you need to be aware of if you’ve never owned a property like this before. For example, it may have a cesspit or septic tank. Maybe you own a business or property with one of these liquid waste disposals. If so, there are a few things to know. If you own a property that isn’t connected to mains sewage, you may have to deal with a cesspit or septic tank.

Whether it's your first time on the property ladder or you’ve just moved out of this city, you may have a few questions about maintaining your cesspit. Hopefully, we can answer all these questions here.

frequently asked questions

What is a cesspit?

Essentially, a cesspit is a pit in which all household waste, including human waste, is piped into and held until it can be emptied. Most properties will have a cesspit that is built from brick and sealed well to ensure there is no leakage. Unless you are buying a very old property, in which the cesspit may be outdated. Some cesspits are made from fibreglass or brick with a fibreglass lining. It will have an exhaust pipe which allows gases to escape as they build up inside the pit. You need to get your cesspit emptied regularly by a licensed waste disposal company, such as R & A Cleansing.

What is the difference between a cesspit and a septic tank?

The main difference between a cesspit and a septic tank is that a septic tank does not need to be emptied as often. This is because the tanks are not sealed and allow effluent to seep through the cracks and into the surrounding soil. As it seeps into the soil, it converts from ammonia to nitrite and then anaerobic bacteria convert the nitrite to nitrate. There is usually pipework in a septic tank that allows the discharge of effluent. These solids are broken down by the bacteria inside the tank until it requires emptying.

How much does a cesspit cost?

There are several considerations to consider when understanding how much a cesspit will cost. If you already have one installed on your property then you only need to worry about maintenance costs. The factors to consider include, the size of the tank, the location of the site and if it’s above or below ground and the materials you’re working with. Cesspits can be more expensive to install than septic tanks due to their size. While septic tanks are more complex and contain two chambers, the size of the cesspit is a considerable factor that makes them generally more expensive to install. You should budget for around £3000 – 6000 for the whole installation.

How much does cesspit drainage cost?

The difference between cesspits and septic tanks is that a cesspit needs to be emptied much more regularly. Unfortunately, this means more maintenance costs for you. How often your cesspit needs to be emptied is dependent on the capacity of your pit and the average amount of waste your household or business produces. As an average rule, you can expect to empty your cesspit every 45 days. Although it can be more than this if your family is made up of four or more members.

As a result, these costs can be quite high. For a single-occupancy house, you will need a 24,000-litre cesspool. To empty one of this size, you can expect to pay £500 – 700, which adds up to an annual cost of £4000 – 6000. If your tank is larger then the cost may be higher, some cesspits can reach a capacity of 220,000 litres, which would be very costly to empty. If you’re not sure what size cesspit you need, as a general rule, you can take the minimum size of 18,000 litres and add 7,000 litres per person in your household.

As cesspits are expensive, they are usually only used if there is no other option. For example, if there is no option for a septic tank or sewage treatment plant. Currently, it is not legal to own a cesspit in Scotland but they are legal in England and Wales but it is your responsibility to ensure there are no leaks or overflow. As well as this, cesspits must be emptied by a licensed waste disposal contractor, unfortunately, there is no way for you to empty your cesspit yourself. Not only is this illegal, but it is also dangerous.

Repairing leaks

Repairing leaks as soon as you are aware of them is vital when it comes to owning a cesspit. Cesspits are typically a last resort when the surrounding ground is unsuitable for liquids to drain through. This is because, unlike septic tanks, the waste in a cesspit has not been treated and if it were to seep through it would enter local waterways and pollute the surrounding environment. You need to call a repair company as soon as you notice a leak so that they can patch it up. To do this, the tank would need to be drained, cleaned and resealed. If you have a brick cesspit, it may require re-rendering, sealing with waterproof paint or re-lining with GRP (glass-reinforced plastic). If the tank is already GRP, it can be patched, but if it has split, a new tank may be the only solution.

How to tell if your cesspit is leaking?

There are several signs that a cesspit or septic tank is leaking. These include:

  • A bad smell: If you notice a bad smell near your cesspit, then it is likely to be leaking waste into the surrounding ground.

  • Lush vegetation: You may also notice that the grass in the surrounding area is particularly green or luscious, then your tank may be leaking.

  • Overly soggy grass: Perhaps you’ve noticed a build-up of fluid in your garden when it hasn’t even rained. This may mean that your tank is leaking and water-logging your garden.

Some of these signs may not always mean that your tank is leaking but it is always best to check as there may be a broken sewer line nearby or one of your neighbours may have a leaking tank. If you suspect there is a problem with your tank it’s best to call a professional to investigate the issue.

Essential maintenance tips

Overall, it is easy to maintain a cesspit as long as you get it emptied regularly and stay aware of any potential leaks. However, here are some main points to keep in mind:

  • Never lift the lid of your cesspit to check the level. This can be harmful because of how many toxins are inside. Instead, use a well-fitted and maintained alarm to keep track of the level of your cesspit.

  • Follow the rules. As cesspits are often in areas that are not practical for other sewage solutions, you need to make sure that yours is located at least 15 metres away from any outbuilding and not less than ten metres from any watercourse.

  • Do not place heavy objects over your cesspit manhole. It is advisable not to drive over the cover of your cesspit, particularly older brick cesspits.

  • Use professionals. You should always call licensed waste disposal contractors to complete any maintenance, repairs or emptying of your cesspit. Whether you need cesspit drainage or cesspit cleaning, always call an experienced cesspool company that is licensed.

R & A Cleansing: Cesspit Emptying and Cesspit Cleaning

At R & A Cleansing, we serve a range of clients across Devon and Cornwall, ensuring their cesspits and septic tanks are in order. We can empty cesspits, septic tanks, holding tanks and Klargester tanks, so get in touch today to learn more about what we can offer. Our expert team can conduct thorough surveys, identifying and diagnosing any existing issues with waste tanks and ensuring that repair work is carried out as quickly and efficiently as possible.

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