A Brief History of the Cesspool

The term “cesspool” is not a complementary one. Yet, the actual object is. As long as you take care of it – including cesspool pumping, in Long Island where it is still legal to have one, the use of this device is positive. It is a means of disposing of sewage that has a long history.

Early Disposal Units

A cesspool, often called a leach pool, is a pit constructed of brick, cement blocks or concrete. It contains wastewater. The matter percolates, seeps or drains from the cesspool into the soil. A cesspool may act alone or as part of a septic system. In order to keep the system running smoothly cesspool pumping is done on a regular and scheduled basis to ensure saturation is not reached and other problems do not occur.

The first systems of disposing of waste products were not cesspools or septic systems. At night, chamber pots contained excess waste or “nightsoil.” In the morning, home owners and chamber maids, emptied the material out of the windows into the crowded city or town streets below. During the days, pissoirs or other similarly designated bathrooms handled the excrement. This was common In Europe until the Italian Renaissance period of the late 1400s. It was later to arrive in England. It was also mainly an urban means of dealing with the problem.

By the 1500s, the urban population was exploding. Cities needed the gutters for more than excessive waste products. Yet, it was not for sanitation that the decision to implement an alternative means of handling raw sewage emerged. As a result, the application of cesspools was not evenly dispersed across the nations.

Sanitation and Safety

In the 18th century, a link had been firmly established between diseases and the unsanitary practice of not disposing of human waste. The result was not only an increase in cesspool production but in the regulation of cesspool construction. The result was the evolution of a new trade. Cesspool cleaners took their place in society. The methods, unlike cesspool pumping today, were crude. They involved shoveling the material out by hand and carting it away in horse-drawn wagons.

Cesspool cleaning was restricted to the night. This made sure that people would not be offended. Depending upon the pool and the era, the cleaning process might occur once in every 4 to 10 years. More frequent cleaning was initiated when it was discovered a close link between death of cesspool cleaners and time between cleanings.

Sanitary concerns also resulted in the change in construction of cesspools. Originally, it did not seem to matter. The municipality in which the cesspool sat did not worry about seepage contaminating ground water. When public health issues arose and could no longer be ignored, reforms regulated a brick or stone and concrete comprise the walls of a cesspool. It also meant for safety and sanitary conditions, cesspool pumping and cleaning occur every year. The solid material was then laid on fields to act as fertilizer

Modern times

In the 19th century in places such as Paris relied on cesspools. In fact, some remained actively in use until the 20th century. However, over the years and around the world sewage systems and septic tanks began to remove the need for cesspools. Pumping was no longer a necessity. In fact, today, many countries such as France, Germany, and Switzerland forbid the use of cesspools. This is also true in parts of Canada and in some states in America. It does not hold true, however, for Long Island and Suffolk County in New York State. Here, many residences still rely on the system. For them cesspool pumping on Long Island is not an option. Whether it is or isn’t part of a septic system, this action is a necessity.

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