Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Cesspool and Septic Tank

Cesspool vs Septic Tank

In many rural areas of North America and Europe, the sewer lines are not connected to the government sewer pipes. People there have alternatively found ways to dispose of sewer contents by using septic tanks. Cesspools are used in rural and some urban areas too to dispose the human (organic) waste. The operation of both is the same; they are used in different ways. The main aim of both is to get rid of the household waste products including human organic wastes.

A cesspool is a large, cylindrical container which is dug deep inside the land surface. It is usually a meter in diameter and four to five meters deep. It is covered with a hatch, and the sewer is kept in it till it is automatically biodegraded. The solids are settled deep inside the base of the cesspool while the liquid percolates into the soil through the concrete. The solid matter is called sludge and the liquid above is called scum.

Cesspools must be treated to avoid harmful chemicals from forming and also to empty the pool which is done once in a month. This is the reason which makes a cesspool require a high cost of maintenance.

Cesspools may be like an essential part of life in many places, but they can be harmful too. For example, if the cesspool is kept at a very deep level, it may come in contact with groundwater and contaminate it making it unsafe for drinking purposes. That is why cesspools are kept quite far away from the wells and underground water sources. The cesspools may prove to be dangerous because of the fact that the waste material may give rise to dangerous fumes.

Septic Tank
A septic tank is used in most of the rural areas which do not have a sewage disposal system. It works in a similar manner to the cesspool. Unlike a cesspool, which stores all kinds of waste material, a septic tank is mainly focused for human organic waste. A septic tank is also a cylindrical holding tank which might be totally or partially underground.
Septic tanks have a bacterial environment which helps in the breakdown of solid wastes into simpler products. Septic tanks are also coupled with other water treatment units like bio-filters. The frequency and the cost of maintenance of septic tanks is quite low as compared to cesspools.
Nearly 25 per cent of North America’s people rely on septic tanks while the number is less in Europe, and it is used rarely in the rest of the world.


1.Cesspools are underground well-like containers used for the storage of biodegradable substances while septic tanks are mainly used to store human waste and have a drainage facility.
2.Cesspools require maintenance at much frequent intervals ranging from a few months while septic tanks need this to be done at a basis of three to four years.
3.Cesspools do not treat wastewater while septic tanks have sewage treatment options.
4.Septic tanks are considered to be better options for sewage disposal.

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  1. I found this super helpful. I’m learning about cesspool basics for a project I’m working on, and I thank you for outlining the differences so clearly!

  2. My property has a cesspool and it is not connected to the city’s sewer system. I am being charged for sewer waster water treatment. Can I dispute these charges, since I am not connected to the sewer system.

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