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Cesspools, Drywells & Leachfields

Cesspools, drywells, leach pits and leachfields. Which one is it???


Cesspools are an open cylinder style hole dug into the ground several feet (a big deep hole in the ground). The walls are usually lined with brick but have also been found unlined. Waste from the dwelling is routed to the cesspool pit and dumped into the ground with no filtration. Cesspools are pretty gross. What are we saying?!?! All sewage waste is gross but cesspools have a special category of yuck. 

Cesspools were quite common but since 1976 have been prohibited due to the raw sewage contaminating soil and ground water. In fact, prohibition of cesspools is so severe that if a property is found to have a cesspool during a real estate transfer, it can severely effect the sale of the property until an approved onsite wastewater system is put in place.

RI8-9-B301 (I)(1)(b)


Technically speaking a drywell is a catch or holding well for stormwater. When people use the term drywell here in Arizona, as it pertains to wastewater, they usually mean “seepage pit”.

Neither a drywell or cesspool is capable of treating human waste.

Seepage pits on the other hand are designed for percolating (filtering) effluent. Seepage pits contain leaching rock to aggregate wastewater. Seepage pits are inspected as part of an onsite wastewater system inspection and certification.

“Seepage Pit” is also another term used interchangeably with “leach pits” better known as a “leachfield”. The main difference between a seepage pit and leachfield is… one is a pit (vertical) and one is a field (horizontal).

Both Seepage Pits and Leachfields can fail and do have a life expectancy of about 20 years.

What Is Effluent?

What Is Effluent?

Effluent is liquid, or sewage waste, discharged from the wastewater system.