The Septic Tank Man

A septic tanks resource for homeowners

Septic Tips

What You Should Know about Cesspools

Cesspools, also known as sump pits or soakaways, were once a common method for managing wastewater from homes. These holes in the ground, often lined with porous materials like cement or stone, acted as temporary storage units for wastewater before it slowly seeped into the surrounding soil.

A cesspool essentially acts as a temporary holding pit for wastewater. Unlike modern septic systems, traditional cesspools lacked the ability to separate solids from liquids.

Typically, the wastewater would seep through the bottom and sometimes the sides of the pit, entering the surrounding soil.

Nowadays, many cesspools are connected to a septic tank, which helps to separate solids and needs to be pumped out periodically.

Identifying a Cesspool on Your Property

If your home was built before 1970, you might have a cesspool. Government regulations enacted in the 1970s prevented the installation of new cesspools, making them unlikely in newer homes.

If you’re uncertain, a certificate of location could provide details about your home’s waste management system.

If you want to replace a cesspool, it’s worth noting that the cost can vary widely, ranging from approximately $10,000 to $30,000 CAD. This will depend on the complexity of the job and the specific requirements of your property.

On some properties, especially those near wells or water bodies, advanced treatment systems may be necessary. Such systems can be more expensive but are generally more efficient at treating wastewater.


While cesspools may not pose an immediate risk if they are well-maintained and situated a safe distance from drinking water sources (at least 200 feet), they are generally less efficient and more prone to environmental contamination compared to modern septic systems.

As such, it is advisable to plan for their eventual replacement.

If you own an older property with a cesspool, be proactive about its maintenance while also budgeting for its eventual replacement with a more modern, efficient system. The upfront cost may be substantial, but it’s an essential investment in the long-term viability and environmental safety of your property.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *