Cleaning the cesspools: a review of best practices + eliminating siltation

Nikolay Fedorenko
Checked by a specialist: Nikolay Fedorenko
Author: Elena Pykhteeva
Last update: March 2019

Even the simplest type of sewerage with a cesspool can significantly increase the level of comfort in a suburban area. However, this solution has a tangible minus - the capacity for the accumulation and primary processing of effluents requires periodic removal of the contents. You must admit that the cesspools must be cleaned according to the rules so that the environment is not damaged.

For owners of private houses and summer cottages that are not connected to centralized sewer networks, we offer scrupulously verified, systematic information on the methods and specifics of cleaning. With our help, you can choose the best option to get rid of sewage and learn how to implement it.

A detailed description of the methods used in practice is based on the personal experience of household owners. The requirements of utility standards are taken into account. Information is confirmed by photos and video applications.

Removing accumulated sewage

Principle of operation cesspool simple - drains through the sewer pipe enter the tank intended for them and accumulate in it. If this is a sealed version of the structure, then it is filled quickly enough.

In case of use cesspool without bottom with an absorbing well connected to it, waste disposal is not necessary so often, since part of the liquid effluent leaves through its filter walls and the bottom filter, being processed inside the soil.

In any case, these non-aromatic accumulations accumulating at the bottom in the form of an insoluble precipitate must be periodically disposed of.

At the disposal of modern summer residents and homeowners for this there are three main ways:

  • removal of sewage by pumping;
  • the use of drugs for the biological decomposition of waste;
  • chemical cleaning.

Finding out how to effectively clean the cesspool, you should consider the features of each of these methods. Depending on the situation, only one of them may be needed, but often it is necessary to carry out cleaning activities in the complex. For example, after using biological products, additional pumping of sewage may be necessary.

When do you need to start treatment? The work strategy should be thought out even at the stage of creating the sewage system, for example, by providing access roads for the sewer machine.

No need to wait until the drains fill the last cubic centimeter of capacity. Excessive filling of the cesspool increases the likelihood of contamination of the site several times. If two-thirds of the capacity is occupied by wastewater, it is time to reduce their level using available means.

Method # 1 - emptying and pumping out a cesspool

If desired, the cesspool can be cleaned even by hand, using an ordinary bucket on a rope. Owners of small summer cottages do just that. This work is extremely unpleasant, it requires preparation. To begin with, you should wear a protective suit or other clothing that you do not mind stain. This is necessary in order to protect the skin, drains can be quite aggressive.

Mechanical cleaning of the cesspool
For mechanical cleaning of cesspools, special machines are used - sludge pumps that pump out the contents of the container and take it out for disposal

Then you need to take care of the protection of the respiratory tract, and it is not only a characteristic stench. Vapors coming from the sewer contain methane, the inhalation of which is extremely dangerous for humans. For the same reason, it is not recommended to carry out treatment works alone, especially if work is planned inside the cesspool.

If the one below is unconscious of toxic fumes, his partner can help him. In addition to a protective suit and a respirator, you need to wear high rubber boots or shoe covers, as well as gloves.

You will also need a sealed container in which the contents of the cesspool will be disposed of. Later, these sewage must be taken to the place intended for their discharge.

Cleaning the sludge disposal tank
The distance between the truck and the cesspool should be no more than four meters.This point should be considered when choosing a place for sewage, as well as with further redevelopment of the site

Manual cleaning is a long, dangerous and unpleasant business. If the budget allows, it is better to use not a bucket for pumping sewage into the tank, but a special fecal pump.

Things will go much faster, there will be much less dangerous contacts with the mass of effluents. But security measures should not be forgotten in this case either.

Fecal pump
You can use a fecal pump to clean the cesspool with your own hands. Periodically, such a pump must be flushed, as it becomes clogged with solid waste.

It is much more convenient to clean the cesspool with the help of specialized equipment, for example, a suction pump. This is a machine that drives up to the site and pumps out drains through a special wide hose.

The distance between the suction pump and the object to be cleaned should be no more than four meters. Such equipment does not serve pits with a depth of more than three meters, but such deep structures are usually not found.

Manual cesspool cleaning
For the sake of safety, when manually cleaning the cesspool, all procedures are best performed by two: one works at the bottom, and the second insures it from above

Even during the construction of the pit, one should take into account such a nuance: the cesspool workers do not pay for the volume of pumped effluents, but for each exit. In order to reduce costs, it is necessary to calculate the volume of the cesspool so that the number of drains, a multiple of the capacity of the sludge pump, is intended for pumping. It should be remembered that pumping starts if the pit is two-thirds full, and not “to the eyeballs”.

Method # 2 - biodegradation of effluents

The process of wastewater treatment using microorganisms is widely used in various septic tanks and industrial VOCs. But today, for cesspools, a line of biological products has been developed that can do what when emptying the cesspools is not possible - to reduce or completely eliminate the unpleasant odor characteristic of the sewage system.

Biological treatment of a cesspool
Depending on the form of release of preparations for biological treatment, their preliminary preparation may be necessary. Usually, granules or powder simply need to be dissolved in a small amount of water.

The sewage machine leaves, and a suffocating sewer spirit hovers over the site for several hours, or even days. The use of biological preparations significantly improves the situation.

To do this, select the appropriate tool and use it in accordance with the instructions. Let out bacteria for cesspools in the form of gels, liquid, powder, granules, etc.

Microorganisms decompose the contents of the sewer into water and sludge neutral to the environment. From a permeable hole, water flows into the surrounding soil, and sludge gradually accumulates. Naturally, the degree of such purification is lower than that of high-tech VOCs, water cannot be used for irrigation, and sediment cannot be used as fertilizer. But the speed of filling the cesspool decreases significantly.

Of course, the sludge from the sewer system alone will not go anywhere, it also needs to be removed or pumped out using the method described above with the use of sewage pumps. There is one more important nuance - not all effluents can be processed using bacteria.

Biological preparations for sewage
Special preparations are intended for biological treatment of cesspools. Some of them are designed to recycle dissolved toilet paper.

Inorganic wastes that enter the sewer accumulate at the bottom and reduce the amount of free space in the storage tank. Aggressive household chemicals, for example, containing chlorine, can create a harmful environment for microorganisms. Owners of washing machines and dishwashers should be careful in this regard.

Method # 3 - use of chemicals

If biological treatment for the environment is just a celebration, then the use of chemicals can be a threat.

To remove waste from cesspools most often use:

  • formaldehyde preparations;
  • nitrate oxidizing agents;
  • ammonium salts.

Even those who are far from chemistry know that formaldehyde is a dangerous substance. Its only advantage is its relatively low price. This drug is toxic and can cause cancer. For these reasons, formaldehyde is practically not used to clean cesspools.

Purifiers based on nitrate oxidizing agents have much better characteristics in terms of safety. Their composition is close to the components of fertilizers of this type, i.e. with the right dosage and following the instructions, such a cleaner is completely safe. These drugs have a high price, which is fully justified by high efficiency.

Ammonium salt crystals
Ammonium salts are an effective chemical substance for cleaning cesspools, but use such chemistry with caution in accordance with the instructions

When added to the sewer, the drug effectively dilutes the waste, while neutralizing unpleasant odors. After the action of the drug is over, the processed contents of the cesspool can be pumped out quickly and disposed of.

Another useful property of nitrate cleaners is that their effectiveness does not decrease when in contact even with the most aggressive household chemicals. Tools of this type are suitable for cleaning not only the pit, but also the entire sewer system.

About how safe preparations based on ammonium salts, accurate data are currently not available. Therefore, when using this tool, like any aggressive chemistry, you need to carefully study the instructions and accurately execute it.

The presence of chlorine-containing agents in wastewater can weaken the effect of the use of this drug, but according to reviews, it copes with unpleasant odors perfectly.

Filled cesspool
Waiting until the cesspool is filled to the top is a bad strategy. Cleaning should be started when the amount of sewage is 60-70% of the capacity

When choosing a method of cleaning the sewage system, a specific situation should be considered. For example, if you need to clean a cesspool under a separate toilet, you should pay attention to funds that can dissolve not only drains, but also toilet paper.

Solving the silt problem

Siltation is a serious problem for permeable filter well, and for a sealed cesspool. In the first case, the liquid part of the sediment will not be able to enter the soil due to the dense mud layer that covers the internal walls of the structure. In the second case, sewage will have to be pumped out more often, since deposits will reduce the volume of the tank.

One of the signs that silt forms inside the cesspool is the appearance of a characteristic unpleasant odor - hydrogen sulfide vapors. When figuring out how to clean a silted cesspool, you need to remember that in this case you need to not only neutralize the waste or pump out the contents.

Cesspool with overflow
If the cesspool fills up too quickly or is often silty, you can consider improving it with an additional tank and overflow

All plaque should be removed from the walls and bottom of the container. For this, chemical means or chemical cleaning methods are used, but the combination of these methods often turns out to be the most effective. During mechanical cleaning, the main part of sewage is pumped out first. After that, using a hose to the tank, you need to supply water under high pressure.

The internal surface of the cesspool is treated with a jet in such a way as to break up the silt sediment and divide it into separate small particles. Processing is carried out until the container is filled by about 25%. After that, the contents pumped out or ilososomes and then disposed of.

For chemical cleaning of silted structures, chemical cleaners are used to dissolve solid inclusions - nitrate oxidizers already described above. Usually they also cope with silty sediments. After some time, all or almost all of the contents will become liquid, it can be pumped out without problems.

The filtering bottom of the absorbing well
After cleaning the absorbing well, it is recommended to replace its filter bottom: remove the old backfill and fill the vacated space again with layers of sand, gravel and gravel

It is worth noting that the use of chemicals will cost much more than emptying by pumping, but such an operation is simpler, and it will take less time. In the process of physical removal of sludge, you will have to put up with a lot of dirt, which this procedure is usually accompanied by.

In cesspools without a bottom, you will also have to clean or renew the sand and gravel filter, which is located below. It will be most reliable to remove the entire contents of the filter and re-lay clean components: a layer of sand, gravel and / or gravel about 40 centimeters thick.

To prevent siltation of the cesspool, it is recommended to divert water from it to the filtration field. It is best done even at the stage of creating the structure, but if you wish, you can perform this operation later. To do this, you need to set horizontal at about half the height of the cesspool sewer pipe for the disposal of liquid waste.

Silted cesspool
If the cesspool is silted up, it should be pumped out immediately and the walls cleaned using a scraper or chemicals, for example, nitrate oxidizing agents

For the device of the filtration field, you need to dig up the soil to the level of laying the branch pipe. A layer of agrofiber is laid down, and crushed stone is poured on top. On this “pillow” lay a pipe coming out of the cesspool. The pipe should be perforated, you just need to make holes in it at an equal distance.

Another layer of rubble is poured on top of the pipe, and then again covered with agrofiber. It turns out that the pipe is surrounded on all sides by filtering materials. This will ensure quick removal of liquid contents from the cesspool and its safe disposal in the thickness of the soil.

Some valuable suggestions

If problems with the cesspool began to arise more often, it makes sense to improve the work of the structure in accessible ways. Some are satisfied cesspool with overflowthat functions like a septic tank.To do this, next to the existing capacity, another one is arranged, about the same.

The first container must be airtight, and the second - permeable or without bottom. It is possible to make the second container airtight, but then it is necessary to provide for the withdrawal of juices to the filtration field or to the drainage well. The overflow between these two departments is set with a slight slope in the upper third of the tanks.

First, the effluents will enter the first compartment, where they will settle, solid waste will sink to the bottom, and the liquid component of the sewer contents will overflow when it reaches the desired level.

In the second compartment, mainly liquid effluents will fall, which will move faster to the filtration field for further disposal. As a result, the pit will have to be cleaned much less frequently, and the likelihood of siltation of the structure will significantly decrease.

Freezing sewer pipe
Freezing of sewer pipes occurs most often due to flaws during installation. If this happens, the pipe needs to be warmed up to restore the sewage system

In winter, sewage in a cesspool can freeze, which will lead to problems in the sewage system. To correct the situation, the frozen mass must be thawed. Traditionally for this use heat gun or her homemade counterpart. In the absence of power supply, bonfires are made near a frozen pit, a blowtorch, etc. are used.

For craftsmen with at least a little experience working with electrics, another way to defrost a cesspool is available - heating directly using electric current. In the middle of a frozen cesspool, a metal pin is driven in approximately to the freezing depth.

Then you need to take an electric cable of suitable length. Its end is stripped and attached to the pin, and 220V power is supplied to the opposite end.

It may take quite a while to completely defrost the structure, sometimes you need to wait about a day, it all depends on the size of the pit. When performing this kind of work, it is mandatory to comply with electrical safety requirements, for example, use protective rubber gloves, shoes, etc.

If it is not the pit that freezes, but the sewer leading to it, this indicates flaws in the laying of communications, for example, the trench was not deep enough or there was no insulation. You can fix these problems in the summer, and during the cold weather you should take care to defrost the pipes.

An electric current can also be used for this. At the end of the cable, you need to strip a piece equal to the circumference of the pipe. To calculate this value, you just need to multiply the pipe diameter by 3.14, i.e. by the number pi.

Then the protected wire is wound around the frozen pipe. Power is supplied to the cable, after a couple of hours of such heating, the contents of the pipe will melt, and the sewer system will resume operation.

Conclusions and useful video on the topic

A practical option for cleaning a silty cesspool is presented in this video:

Here we demonstrate the procedure for pumping waste from a cesspool using a fecal pump, which should be washed periodically:

The process and result of using a bioactivator for cleaning a cesspool can be seen in this video:

Although the cesspool is a very simple option for an autonomous sewage system, it requires proper maintenance and timely cleaning. Modern tools allow you to get rid of accumulated waste in the construction quickly and efficiently.

Still have questions about cleaning cesspools? Or maybe you know other equally effective methods and have already tried them in practice? Ask your questions, share your experience in the block located at the bottom of the article.

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Visitors Comments
  1. Semen

    The best way is to dig out a new one :-)
    Not, but right now - a mechanical method, in my opinion, they will take the most affordable 800 rubles per cubic meter of pumping, find 3-4 tr, it’s easier than diving into such a topic.
    After all, cleaning is not such a frequent process for a private house, where 4-5 people go to the toilet.
    In villages, the pits under the toilets have been filled for decades and the waste there normally goes to the ground.

  2. Daniel Demon

    Oh, such a job is not for me. I wouldn’t dive into shit, I don’t have such a suit. It’s better to pay those unfortunate couple of thousand already than to do such a dirty job. But if you don’t give a damn about it and you just want to save, then the flag is in your hands. Do everything as written above and it should work out. My friend did the cleaning, but he had a professional suit for such an activity, and I would have climbed in that. As a last resort, I’d better dig a new waste pit.

  3. Sergei

    Although there are several methods for cleaning the cesspool from sewage, I use the old proven method. I call a specialized machine and with the help of a hose we pump out the accumulated in the tank installed on the machine of sewage trucks. They are driving away. Of course, this is costly, but effective. There is nothing to be done with the smell after pumping, but it is eroded.

  4. Boris

    I fully support all the commentators above. Now it’s easier to call a scavenger than to climb into a cesspool by yourself. In the villages they dig out new ones, and in urban areas they use services.