The History of Septic Tanks

It’s an innovation that many of us take for granted, but septic tanks are an essential part of maintaining hygiene and health standards of many rural locations, whether it’s in the home or at the office. Although you might think that they are a fairly new concept, the history of septic tanks suggests otherwise.

John Mouras

In fact, the history of septic tanks can be traced back to 1860, when it is widely believed that the septic tank was invented not by a scientist, but by an ordinary man.  John Mouras was a Frenchman who had the idea over 150 years ago, as he decided to try it out in his own home. He designed a prototype of the necessity we now know out of concrete and attached it to fabricated piping made of clay to dispense the waste. He knew that storing waste instead of instantly disposing it was a more hygienic, sensible option than then-contemporary waste management systems.

Almost a decade later, Mouras discovered that the tank was empty despite years of use, containing nothing but organic waste. Realising that he was onto something, Mouras reached out to a scientist, Abbe Moigno, to discuss further.

After going through some of the intricacies of the system, Mouras applied for a patent in 1881 and was successful, unknowingly creating a waste disposal system that would be around for centuries. Just two years later, the system made its way to the United States of America and then onto Africa, courtesy of the British Navy. The rest, as they say, is history – septic tanks are now commonplace in households and buildings across the globe.

The Principles Of Septic Tanks

However, the principles of septic tanks actually stretch back far, far further than the 19th century. It’s believed that 3700 BC saw the use of something akin to septic tanks by the people of India. The technology was, of course, very crude, allowing waste to pass through drains to be soaked through the ground outside.

What have the Romans ever done for us?

It’s also believed that Romans were the first to implement civilised waste management systems, often using cesspools as a precursor to the septic tank. Victorian London also used cesspools, but not to the extent that it stopped widespread disease and ill health, highlighting just how vital it is to dispose of waste properly.

The technology of these tanks has certainly evolved over the years, particularly once the Americans had embraced it. As early as the 1920s, it seemed like the USA had perfected the method, creating a tank design that is close to the ones of today, leading to the United Kingdom following suit shortly after.

The United Kingdom didn’t actually acknowledge that these tanks were anything but cesspools until 1956. The 1956 Code of Practice discussed settlement tables, treatment of sewage by aeration and installations among other things. It has been updated semi-regularly since then with the most recent update in 2007 discussing the use of septic tanks in holiday parks.

Installing Septic Tanks

septic tanks

In the UK, septic tank installation is something best left to the experts – it can be quite a complex procedure. One missed connection in an off-mains drainage installation and you could be looking at quite the mess. Maintaining the quality and efficiency of your septic tank is also vital because, as with most things, they can degrade over time. Some of the ramifications of not properly upholding the efficiency of your tank include: bad odours; pollution of nearby streams; inadequate toilet flushing, and overflowing of waste into your own home. Cases such as these can be avoided as long as you seek help from those adept at maintaining the quality of septic tanks.

As for what sort of septic tank you require, it’s a question you’re safest asking rather than guessing. There are a wide variety of different tanks for different purposes, so what might be suitable for a residential area may not be suitable for commercial premises. For instance, if your residence is more than 100 feet away from a public sewer in the UK, you may actually benefit from the use of septic tanks instead. The basic design of septic tanks hasn’t changed much in recent years, but you can now purchase reinforced tanks made of fibreglass for added security.

For an idea of which septic tank you need, be sure to contact us for more information.