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Old 04-21-2013, 01:01 PM   #1
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Need help understanding old cistern

I have a 1904 house that I've been in for a year and don't know the purpose of what I would describe as a well. As you'll see in the schematic and pictures, there are 3 pipes that can discharge into the well. One is aimed straight into the basement--all the pipes in the basement are capped. The second one may have been connected to a downspout at one point. It seems to aim at the corner of the foundation, one picture shows a hole near the corner of the foundation. The largest pipe (parallel to house) goes to places unknown but could theoretically intersect the current sewer pipe.

1. What is this and is it still necessary?
2. Does anything need to be done with water inside well?
3. Do I need to keep it accessible or can it be sealed?
4. Could I cap the hole near the corner of the foundation?
5. What are the chances that I'll need to someday excavate to remedy a problem (I'm hoping to make the side yard a garden)

See next post for two additional questions
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Last edited by tabatt07; 04-22-2013 at 05:56 AM.
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Old 04-21-2013, 01:04 PM   #2
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How would one repair the concrete at ground level (e.g. how would you get the concrete to stick without falling into the well)?

I've also got a cannon ball looking thing in the front yard. I dug around it and it's a cast iron cap that could be pulled upwards. Some dirt fell in and I heard it hit water. Does that tie into the well? Do I need to keep the cap? Could I replace it with a PVC plug?
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Old 04-21-2013, 01:42 PM   #3
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Looks more like an old cistern system.
When posting in forums, letting us know your location will help others give better feedback/advice/solutions to your questions
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Old 04-21-2013, 03:00 PM   #4
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Looks like a good way to get Cholera to me.
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Old 04-21-2013, 03:17 PM   #5
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Stick a hose down some of those holes and run water. You will know if they connect to the well. I think it is more of a cistern then a well that was setup to collect water from the roof downspouts.
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Old 04-22-2013, 05:11 AM   #6
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I agree that it appears to be a cistern. I still have some investigating to do before I figure out my next steps. For posterity, here are two links that added to my understanding.

The Old-House Journal article from the 1980s

Angie's List article from 2011
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Old 04-22-2013, 10:53 AM   #7
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Lots of older houses had cisterns dug as a way to dispose of water. Drain water, rain water, floor drains, downspouts all could have been piped into a cistern. Do you need it? We can't tell you. If you eliminate it where will your waste water go? On top of the ground? If your basementdrains lead to it, where will you go with the water if it is eliminated? The ball shaped item is likely a vent. It should probably stay a vent and be raised above ground to work. Should you keep it accessible? Probably. If it clogs with mud or leaves, you'd want to be able to flush it.


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