Around the year 1860, an inventor in France named John Mouras was sick of the smell of human waste filling his home. In order to combat this, he unintentionally designed a method of waste disposal that would go on to be used for centuries. Using easily sourced materials he constructed a drainage system that he would later discover effectively disposed of solid waste. With a limited bank account, his design was simple, a cheaper alternative, his original piping had been constructed with a readily available material – clay. For the tank itself, he knew he would need something sturdier, he managed to bargain with a seller to acquire an appropriate amount of concrete.
In order to further get rid of the smell, he decided to have the pipes lead all the disgusting water as far away from his home as he could. As he noticed the tank beginning to fill up, he realized there would need to be a place for the remaining water to be released, so he created a cesspool to do just that. Over a decade after he created the system, he decided to open the tank, what he discovered was shocking – there were almost no solids! He had created the first septic tank. In the 1880s he was given a patent and soon after, Americans had begun to implement the system.
It quickly became apparent that handling raw sewage had hazardous consequences for both people and the environment. In response, strict regulations were put in place to ensure the safety standards of septic systems kept US citizens safe and well.
What About Now?
Today, there have been vast improvements in the world of septic tank technology. In order to maximise safety, scientists have developed septic tanks further with the introduction of several alarms and filters to make sure you can monitor the efficiency of your septic tank for peace of mind. It has also been proven that septic tank systems that have been implemented in suburban neighborhoods are a safer alternative to setting up more septic tanks in the city – which could lead to bigger, more expensive problems if the worst were to happen.
In the beginning, Mr Mouras most likely had to empty his own tank and deal with his own waste, often with hazardous results. Now, however, we are lucky enough to have wonderful specialists trained to handle effluent safely we can pay to do it for us. Interestingly, one thing Mouras got right was the material he used for his tank, whilst the materials for piping have been updated, over a quarter of septic tanks in the US are still made using concrete. If you’re still curious about the function of septic tanks, you can learn more here.
It is important to remember that whilst the technology has developed greatly in terms of safety and efficiency, there are still ways we can ensure our septic tanks run as smoothly as possible. Simple things like conserving water, being conscious of what we’re letting go down the drain and ensuring we get our septic tanks maintained and pumped every 3-5 years will make all the difference.