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Old 07-06-2013, 02:33 PM   #1
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cesspool vs septic tank, weep vs leech


What is the difference between a cesspool and a septic tank? How effective are weep holes in contrast to leech lines?

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Bought a house one year ago. Thought we had septic with leech lines. Turns out we have a cesspool with weep holes. The problem that we are having is that the cesspool fills up quickly, every 2-3 months, and needs to be pumped. I get the impression that the weep holes are not doing the job. Wondering what the options are for fixing this now. First I need to understand what is a cesspool and how does it work in comparison/contrast to septic.

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Old 07-06-2013, 04:34 PM   #2
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The word cesspool is a poorly defined term that generally refers to a septic system which includes only a pit where the effluent is dumped, and where there is no leaching field. Cesspools are typically not designed, and generally do not meet code in any jurisdiction that has a septic code. In some cases, they may be grandfathered in, hence may be legal if they are still operational.

A septic system generally includes a waste line from the house that enters a concrete or metal septic tank, which separates floatable and solid material (floatable goes to the top, solids remain on the bottom). The effluent in the tank undergoes partial decomposition by anaerobic bacteria.

After the septic tank, the effluent either runs by gravity, or is pumped if necessary, to a distribution box, which has two or more leach lines running from the box into the leach field. The leach field generally consists of a series of parallel, perforated pipes, embedded in crushed stone or gravel, buried two or three feet below grade. Final cleaning of the effluent occurs in the soil below the leach lines. The leach lines typically have holes in the bottom of the pipe (perforated 4 inch PVC pipe is pretty commonly used).

Modern septic systems are generally very effective, and will last a very long time if properly maintained. A cesspool on the other hand will eventually clog up, and maintenance is generally a difficult problem. As to options for fixing it, you need to discuss this matter with your local board of health, who will likely have suggestions on what to do. Beware of snake oil salesmen who want to sell you peroxide treatment, acid treatment, oxygen treatment, enzyme treatment etc. Many of these techniques may not be permitted in your jurisdiction, only your board of health can tell you what options are acceptable.

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Old 07-06-2013, 05:50 PM   #3
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cesspool vs septic tank, weep vs leech


In most places, including where I live, the Health Department tells you what sort of septic system to install, and where it must go. You don't get to pick and choose. Talk to them and see what they say about your problem.
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Old 07-06-2013, 09:16 PM   #4
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cesspool vs septic tank, weep vs leech


Thanx for the explanation. You confirmed my fears. The previous house owner had a contractor come in to do work and he left a report. The contractor took $5300 to patch up and fix the cesspool. Why he didn't just install a new modern septic system is beyond me. I suspect it might have involved complicated city ordinances and crazy regulations to do that. To patch up and fix an old system might have been less trouble. In his report he did have a good word of advice. He suggested that the previous owner look into diverting the gray-water in the house to irrigation. A recent city ordinance he quoted allows one to do that to alleviate amount of water and what-not going into the cesspool. We might need to set up a dual system of abs pipes. One for shower and bath and sinks and laundry and one for toilets and the kitchen.
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Old 07-08-2013, 07:33 AM   #5
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You should update your profile to include your location. That might help with responses. In some places (though not many in the U.S.) it is still legal to discharge gray water directly to the ground. I suggest you check with your local Health Department about the rules where you live.
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Old 07-08-2013, 01:24 PM   #6
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Updated location. Los Angeles County. I have a house in the city and a ranch on the outskirts. One is under city jurisdiction one is under county jurisdiction. The city regulations are as follows...

http://www.lacitysan.org/irp/documen...Flier_2012.pdf

You say "it is still legal" as if this practice was grandfathered in and going out of style. The exact opposite is true. The contractor made a report in 2011 that referred to a new rule passed in 2010. The above flier is dated 2012. So this is a new rule that allows for use of graywater in irrigation.
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Old 07-08-2013, 01:59 PM   #7
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cesspool vs septic tank, weep vs leech


Quote:
Originally Posted by jackwashere View Post
Updated location. Los Angeles County. I have a house in the city and a ranch on the outskirts. One is under city jurisdiction one is under county jurisdiction. The city regulations are as follows...

http://www.lacitysan.org/irp/documen...Flier_2012.pdf

You say "it is still legal" as if this practice was grandfathered in and going out of style. The exact opposite is true. The contractor made a report in 2011 that referred to a new rule passed in 2010. The above flier is dated 2012. So this is a new rule that allows for use of graywater in irrigation.
I bet you still need to have an approved grey water system.
Your cess pool won't meet the standards. You will need to pipe dedicated grey water drains from these fixtures to an approved system- just my opinion
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Old 07-08-2013, 05:16 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jackwashere View Post
Updated location. Los Angeles County. I have a house in the city and a ranch on the outskirts. One is under city jurisdiction one is under county jurisdiction. The city regulations are as follows...

http://www.lacitysan.org/irp/documen...Flier_2012.pdf

You say "it is still legal" as if this practice was grandfathered in and going out of style. The exact opposite is true.
It is indeed going "out of style." It is no longer legal where I live. Having grown up there, I can say that California is a whole different animal, but I would be greatly surprised if it's legal there.
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Old 07-08-2013, 07:00 PM   #9
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approved system
If I ever decide that I have too much money I'll look into one of those. The reason I have a cesspool instead of a new modern septic system is probably city regulations that make anything you do to change the existing system prohibitively expensive. The contractor probably read the previous owner the riot act: patch up the old cesspool $5300 or install a new septic system for $15,000 or $25,000. You pay for mendacity associated with doing anything in the city within regulations. I paid $5500 for a septic system on the ranch and I was amazed to see the neighbor do the job in a day. That's $1500 for materials and the rest is money for a day's work. I could have rented a hoe with operator for $100/hour and have done the job myself and saved $4000. For $5300 the cesspool contractor grabbed 3 day workers from the Home Depot parking lot and had them take turns digging for a day or two. Sprinkled some gravel on the sides. Poured a bucket or two of concrete over the top. Voila! So what's the $5300 for??? License number: ABC and Bond number: XYZ and to top it off Million Dollar Liability Insurance Broker: ZZZ Insurance company on the report.
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Old 07-08-2013, 07:20 PM   #10
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In my area- your pool would be abandoned and replaced with a drain field.....you would be welcome shop for quotes too
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Old 07-09-2013, 08:34 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jackwashere View Post
If I ever decide that I have too much money I'll look into one of those. The reason I have a cesspool instead of a new modern septic system is probably city regulations that make anything you do to change the existing system prohibitively expensive. The contractor probably read the previous owner the riot act: patch up the old cesspool $5300 or install a new septic system for $15,000 or $25,000. You pay for mendacity associated with doing anything in the city within regulations. I paid $5500 for a septic system on the ranch and I was amazed to see the neighbor do the job in a day. That's $1500 for materials and the rest is money for a day's work. I could have rented a hoe with operator for $100/hour and have done the job myself and saved $4000. For $5300 the cesspool contractor grabbed 3 day workers from the Home Depot parking lot and had them take turns digging for a day or two. Sprinkled some gravel on the sides. Poured a bucket or two of concrete over the top. Voila! So what's the $5300 for??? License number: ABC and Bond number: XYZ and to top it off Million Dollar Liability Insurance Broker: ZZZ Insurance company on the report.
$15K for a septic system?? Even in the PRK, I find that hard to believe, and I was born and raised there. Where I live now, my system, installed five years ago, was less than 1/4 of that amount. And here, because we're in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, only licensed installers approved by the Health Department can do septic system work.
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Old 07-09-2013, 09:52 AM   #12
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Here in Michigan, we got 3 quotes for a new drain field, inspect the tanks and plumbing etc, and they were all around 15k. Do all septic systems not have drain fields?
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Old 07-09-2013, 12:19 PM   #13
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Here in Michigan, we got 3 quotes for a new drain field, inspect the tanks and plumbing etc, and they were all around 15k. Do all septic systems not have drain fields?
No, they don't, at least in the sense of the typical multiple laterals like I have. Though not used around here, there is even a system that is entirely above ground. Just depends on the soil conditions and regulations where you live.
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Old 07-16-2013, 10:54 PM   #14
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There are still some functioning cesspools in my neighborhood. My house had one untill the mid 80's. Fortunately, that expense didn't fall on me. They tend to get overused easily, but as long as they continue to function they are allowed in my region.

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