What is a cesspool?
A cesspool is an outdoor, underground drywell which receives waste and wastewater from homes, industries, or businesses. A cesspool may also be called a shallow disposal system or Class V well. After the waste enters the cesspool, it breaks down into liquids that seep into the ground through holes in the cesspool. The wastewater also leaves through the holes and enters the soil.
In a cesspool system, disease-causing pollutants from untreated waste can enter shallow groundwater and contaminate drinking water, streams, lakes, and eventually oceans. Failing cesspool systems can expose people to harmful bacteria and viruses. Odors can pose human health risks. If materials such as chemicals, oil, gas, pesticides, or paints enter a cesspool, they can harm the environment.
Cesspool systems should be properly sited, constructed, and operated to protect the environment and human health, and prevent contamination. State and local governments regulate cesspools for homes. In the past, many were built very close to shorelines and now that these cesspools are aging they may leak directly into ocean waters. Many are being replaced with modern septic systems. The federal government required the closing of all large-capacity cesspools by April 2005.
Web Links from MedlinePlus (National Library of Medicine)
E. Coli Infections
Class V Wells (Environmental Protection Agency)
Large-Capacity Cesspools (Environmental Protection Agency)
Last Updated: January 23, 2008