A cesspit, or cesspool, is a pit, conservancy tank, or covered cistern, which can be used for sewage or refuse.
In the UK a cesspit is a sealed tank for the reception and temporary storage of sewage. Because it is sealed, the tank must be emptied frequently — in many cases as often as weekly. Because of the need for frequent emptying, the cost of maintenance of a cesspit can be very high.
In many rural communities, sometimes the builder or installer of a cesspit will illegally breach the floor of the pit after the final inspection by building inspectors so as to allow liquid from the tank to escape into the ground. Such incidents can give rise to locally acute pollution and may contaminate the drinking water supplies of others. Using a cesspit in such a condition constitutes a criminal offence in the UK.
In the US, a cesspool is a dry well for the disposal of sewage. Liquids leach out promptly if soil conditions allow. Some solids decay and are leached out after some time. Some solids accumulate, eventually blocking the escape of liquids, causing the familiar cesspool failure or overflow. Cesspools are discouraged, or are banned by local plumbing codes, and instead connections to municipal sewage systems or septic systems are encouraged or required.
The typical American urbanite in the 1870s relied on the rural solution of individual well and outhouse (privy) or cesspool. Baltimore in the 1880s smelled "like a billion polecats," according to H. L. Mencken, and a Chicagoan said in his city "the stink is enough to knock you down." Improvement was slow, and large cities of the East and South depended to the end of the century mainly on drainage through open gutters. Pollution of water supplies by sewage as well as dumping of industrial waste accounted in large measures for the public health records and staggering mortality rates of the period. (The National Experience)
In Huntington, New York, most households still use cesspools for waste drainage. There has been a chronic occurrence of cesspool collapses in this area. Since 1998, four cases of cesspools collapsing and sucking in human residents that were standing over them have been reported, injuring a total of five people, killing one in 2001 and another in 2007.
- The National Experience
cesspool in Czech: Žumpa