The History of the Septic System

While modern medicine is often given the lion’s share of the credit for improving health over the last century or two, other factors like cleaner water and proper sanitation have played at least as big a role in this event. Prior attempts at waste disposal were carried out by ancient civilizations, but the last 150 years have produced lasting results that are coupled with a good understanding of why septic systems succeed at controlling disease. Here’s a quick synopsis of septic management history.

Haphazard Sanitation

Before civilization, humans lived as hunter-gatherers who didn’t have to concern themselves with waste treatment. When things became foul, they simply moved on. The founding of permanent communities changed this. It was apparent early on that the byproducts of human existence needed to be relocated. Sometimes, this might be achieved by merely digging deep holes in the ground. As far back as around 3000 B.C., organized cities around the world, including the New World Mayan cities, built sewage canals that used flowing water to whisk away the effluvia. Unfortunately, without knowing the connection between waste and germs, it was often transported to the nearest river or pond that also doubled as a source of drinking water.

Cleaning Things Up

Traditionally, in both urban and rural locations, cesspits were the more common means of dealing with human waste. This technique often permitted pathogens to migrate through the soil into the groundwater supply. In 1860, Jean-Louis Mouras invented a new type of cesspit, the Fosse Mouras, that used two underground concrete chambers. The first held the solid waste while allowing liquids to flow into the second tank where they could exit into the soil. It was thought this arrangement would prolong the lifespan of the cesspit. In the process of testing the device, he accidentally discovered the process of anaerobic decomposition when an examination of the first tank revealed very little solid material at the bottom. A final design was patented in 1881.

The final big advancement in septic systems was the addition of the drain field to the septic tank. Rather than rely on anaerobic bacteria alone, this series of pipes placed several feet below ground and surrounded by course gravel allowed aerobic bacteria and other organisms in the soil to consume remaining wastes in the discharge water. This arrangement also kept waste water from directly seeping into the water table.

However, today’s modern septic systems are not perfect. They require maintenance and attention. Try one of our septic system cleaning products to help keep your septic system running smoothly. Contact us now for more information.

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