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Old 01-17-2010, 05:11 PM   #1
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Cistern?


We have a house built in 1950's. Is has gutters which feed into larger pipes that go into the ground. When looking in the crawl space I noticed an old, small water tank with an electric pump. When I examined it, I noticed the plumbing from it had been capped and that the pump is no longer plugged in, makes sense since it is not longer used. When I looked at where it was getting it's supply, I noticed a few pipes running through the outer block wall to the outside which would be under our huge patio outside. So I went out on my hunt to find out where they were going. Well, when I moved the concrete slab step leading off the patio I saw the pipes coming through a concrete wall and going down through what looks like a cap. So apparently, the pump pulled water out of this cistern and into the water tank??? Not sure what is going on, but what I do know is that when it rains heavy, this cistern is filling up (over the cap) and somehow finds it's way into the basement. Not sure if it's overflow or just the result of the tank being full and the water from the gutters finding a weak spot in the pipes leading to the cistern. I went out today to measure how deep it is, at 30ft I still did not find the bottom!! I will go out when I have longer string and see how deep it is.

I have a sump pump in the basement so this water eventually finds it's way to the pump and then outside. I would like to resolve this issue with the water runoff into the basement when it rains. I feel that the cistern overflow(or crack) is what is causing it. I thought about just using the existing pump for the cistern and tie that into my sump outlet so it will pump water out of the cistern and then outside. Otherwise, I will need to disconnect the gutters and find other means of moving the water away from the gutters.

So my question is, does anyone have experience with this and if so, what would you suggest? Keep in mind, I am only speculating on what is going on here (cistern), not sure why it would be over 30ft deep.

It's 45 ft deep, at least that is where my test stopped sinking.

(2)- Why is there two lines going to cistern?


Last edited by sec9622; 01-17-2010 at 06:58 PM. Reason: Pump Question
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Old 01-18-2010, 12:02 AM   #2
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Cistern?


Are you sure it really is a cistern or was it originally some type of dug well?

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Old 01-18-2010, 01:42 AM   #3
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Cistern?


Not for sure, just speculating on from what I have read about cisterns and the fact the gutters feed into large iron pipe that goes into the ground. The distance from where the opening is to the house is prob 10-15 feet. So just guessing on where the water is coming from...I don't know what it is, but I do know after a hard rain, we get basement leaks for days....not hours. I am going to monitor the level of whatever it is, if the leaks stop at a certain level then I will at least know it is the source...how can I tell for sure if it is a well or cistern?
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Old 01-18-2010, 07:20 AM   #4
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Cistern?


I am tempted to say disconnect the pipes and fill it in if it serves no purpose. You might want to get a civil engineer or hydrologist out for a visit to make sure this will do the trick though? I think I would re-route your gutter downspouts too? In Illinois we cannot drain downspouts other than over the surface or into a rain barrell system anymore. If it is an old cistern, there is probably a drain tile system feeding it in addition to the pipes you see. It is likely leaking on its own too?

At least your sump system is working but water will always find the lowest point and that sounds like it is that old cistern or whatever it is that you have. Not sure where you are or how your property is graded but maybe a perimiter systems for removing water that will not drain is in your future? I've had projects where this was the only way or the sump pump in the basement would run continuously during the rainy season.

Lots of old cisterns around Central Illinois farm country and old houses I worked on. They usually don't cause basement problems like yours though. Most people fill them in for safety reasons. Don't want to be on Faux News when a kid goes exploring. Illinois EPA has their eyes on fining those remaining because of what they were made of and what might have drained into them. Not sure where you are. Get rid of the thing if it serves no purpose. I know it will make one H of a whole in the yard but you will be better off without it.
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Old 01-18-2010, 08:11 AM   #5
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Cistern?


if its spring fed I would look at water test for quality, potable? also great water source for garden, my brother lives in tenn and it gets pretty dry there. you could look at sump at cistern to keep it below a certain level and see if it affects basement. I would also if were me pump it out one time and see whats in there. Had one in conn growing up it was our main water source but thats another story
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Old 01-18-2010, 08:37 AM   #6
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Cistern?


I agree the cistern could be dealt with a pump system for itself and it would probably make a great, near free water drip irrigation system for the garden once you test for heavy metals.

My concern is that I bet it is in rough shape and leaking out the sides into the guy's basement. His downspouts need to come to the surface. Whatever is draining into the cistern needs to be shut off.

What really concerns me is how big this cistern thing or old well might be? Can the poster give hints on capacity?

My neighbor built, first a bomb shelter, and then a a great doll house for his girls into one in Central Illinois.

Why the cistern, or whatever and the basement is filled with water remains the issue I would encourage the poster to chase down.
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Old 01-18-2010, 03:37 PM   #7
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Cistern?


Why the Cistern? I figure they didn't have city water when the house was built. There is evedence of another well, about 150 ft from the house. I am guessing cistern or whatever it is, was the way to go. Like I said, they actually fed the main lines of the house with this system at one point. All infratructure is still there, just cut and capped off the water lines to the house and tied it into city water at some point in time. If the pump was operational, I would just turn it on as the system is still plumbed into an old water faucet outdoors. I woud love to turn it on, at least it would pump it dry.... I'll try to get some pics up soon so everyone can get a better picture of what I am seeing.
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Old 01-18-2010, 04:19 PM   #8
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Cistern?


If you choose to pump it dry, be careful you do not cause collapse of the system. The groundwater level outside the cistern is going to be at approximately the average level of the water inside the cistern. From your description the cistern is pretty deep. If you pump it dry, the groundwater outside is going to remain at the same elevation as it started, because groundwater levels fall very slowly. This will create large pressure around the outside of the cistern, potentially high enough to cause collapse of the structure.

You see the same effect if a built in swimming pool is drained quickly. As long as the pool is full, the external groundwater pressure is balanced by the internal pressure from the water in the pool. Take away the internal pressure, and the differential can cause catastrophic collapse.
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Old 01-18-2010, 04:39 PM   #9
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Cistern?


around here they use concrete 3' diameter casings, maybe there also vs hand dug walls
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Old 01-18-2010, 09:08 PM   #10
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Cistern?


Hey sdsester, how do you fill in a cistern. I have one outside my house. Not sure what it was used for. Sticks out of the ground about two feet. Concrete tank with the top capped off. I'm guessing that's where the pump was. The concrete has cracked on top and I can hear the water running into it when it rains heavy.

I was thinking, redirect gutters, fill with sand/stone combination mostly then dirt the rest of the way. Not sure what to do about the top.
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Old 01-19-2010, 12:25 AM   #11
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Cistern?


Many homes had a well and cistern. The wells provided potable water but was usually hard. The cisterns were used to collect rainwater which is soft water and it was piped into the wash room or to a third faucet on the kitchen sink and used for such things as washing hair, and laundry.

Check with you local extension office if you decide to fill the cistern. Many jurisdictions have very precise methods that have to be followed.
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Old 01-19-2010, 08:02 AM   #12
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Cistern?


I'd use it for outside water - gardens, wash the car if clean enough
Here we get charged for the water we use, then charged again for that water going to Town sewer
So by lowering my water use we lower our sewer charge
Never understood using drinking water to flush a toilet
Once I get my rainwater system fully setup -750g capacity so far- I will use it for the toilets
I'm already using it for my gardens
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Old 01-19-2010, 11:30 AM   #13
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Cistern?


Thanks for the replies. I'll check to see what the regs are here. I wasn't planning on using it. When I bought the house a year ago, the inspector I hired said it wasn't in good shape and should be filled in eventually. The side walls that stick out are starting to show some minor cracks.
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Old 01-19-2010, 07:50 PM   #14
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Cistern?


Ok, I got off work early enough today to some investigating in the daylight. The downspouts are not tied into whatever this is...They are ran in hard pipe away from the house 8-10ft, which should be ideal. I ran some water through each to check on the condition, some are partially clogged. If someone has suggestions on how to clean these I would appreciate it. Two corners of the house are hard piped away, the only access to these hard pipes are at the downspouts,,,,I actually removed the dirt from all pies to see if they had tees or clean-outs..they don't. The downspouts on the corners have elbows that are concreted into the pipes, I guess I will have to remove the downspout from the gutter to clan them out. I'm not a contractor so I don't know all the cool things out there to clean these. At the back of the house, I have two downspouts that are hard piped down through some built in planters and then flex piped under the patio...these in my opinion will need more delicate cleaning since they have flex under concrete. I am also going to dig some trenches in the rear at the patio since these flex outlets are below grade.

I guess we have a well?? My other question here would be...the water in the well will force itself up through the pipes? If the water is above the pipes, then the pipes are probably full? The pipes are 90 deg out the well.
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Old 02-17-2011, 08:12 PM   #15
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Cistern?


Can someone out there help me? I recently drilled a well, and no longer
need my cistern. It is located underneath my sunroom. There is still some
water in it, about three or four inches. I am concerned about condensation
and possible mold. I would like to eliminate and close it off. I read about
aprman 1, who had the same problem, but can't find out what he did about it.

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