The history of septic systems does not date back as far as one would think. In fact, it only dates back to about 160 years ago! Before septic systems, there was very poor wastewater regulation. Cities and rivers were contaminated, and disease spread easily. Poor wastewater management caused issues for ages until the invention of the septic system came about in the 1860s in Europe. By the 1940s, septic systems had become a common method of wastewater management in many parts of The United States. The technology was further developed and by the 1960s, systems looked much like the modern septic systems we know today.
Of course, modifications have been made to septic systems in the last 60 years, but the underlying concepts and component functions remain the same. Check out these documents we found lying around our shop – both date back to around 1960. We’ll point out what remains similar and what is different from the 1960s to the 2020s!
The US Department of Health Education and Welfare (now Department of Health and Human Services) created the document above as a guide for homeowners with septic systems. The back of this document includes a section for a diagram of the tank and a record of tank inspections. The price for a pump-out in 1960 was only 15 dollars! The information, although 60 years old, remains accurate. Some of the most important takeaways from this brochure are:
- When buying or selling a home, always make sure that the septic system is functioning properly.
- Have your system serviced regularly.
- Have up-to-date diagrams and records of your system.
- Keep trees and shrubs far away from your system.
- Do not drive heavy equipment over or near the septic system.
It is important to follow these guidelines (yes, even 60 years later!) to ensure a well-functioning system.
The Art Cement Products Company in Springfield, MA, produced Document #2. It shows illustrations of ‘The Universal Septic Tank’ and its installation instructions. This company operated from 1956-1998 and casted concrete septic tanks for residential and commercial use. The layout of this septic system remains like today’s systems.
However, this type of tank is assembled in 300-gallon sections until the desired tank size is obtained. These days, tanks come premade in a variety of sizes, with the most common sizes for residential properties being 1000, 1250, and 1500-gallon. Also, it should be noted that the tank sizes recommended are much smaller than those today. For example, it is recommended that a home with 6 people have at least a 1500-gallon tank (as opposed to a 900-gallon tank). This is because water consumption is higher than in the past, as appliances like washing machines and dishwashers operate in almost all homes.
The biggest difference, though, comes to the installation process that this document describes. Today, we are aware of the effects a poorly functioning septic system can have on the environment. The state’s health department now requires approvals on many steps of the installation process to ensure proper installation. Septic system professionals, such as Skips Wastewater Services, require installer’s permits and licensing to install and repair septic systems. Additionally, a ‘one-size-fits-all’ septic system plan does not exist. Every property has different soils, landscapes, and water tables. Our project managers carefully create unique plans for every home based on specifications of the property.
Again, although these documents are many years old, a lot of the concepts remain true. The bottom line: make sure your system is installed properly and it is regularly serviced to ensure it lives a long, healthy life.
Questions about your septic system? Contact Skips Wastewater Services today!