Septic Tank or Cesspool?

We live close to London in a bungalow constructed in 1959. The property is not on mains drainage but has a 'tank' underneath the back garden, and I have no idea exactly what it does. It hasn't been emptied in the eight or so years we have lived here. Most of the neighbouring properties are in the same position as far as I know.
I have lifted the tank manhole cover and it is circular, approximately 6 to 8 feet in diameter. The top part is a dome of brick construction, and give the 'water' level it is impossible to see the rest of it, although I remember looking at it years ago when the level was lower I got the impression the lower part was not brick but possibly fiberglass? (hard to tell really, very dark and smelly when looking it!) The tank has a plastic soil pipe vent stack which rises to approx ten foot.
What is the tank most likely to be given the period the bungalow was constructed in? Seems to small for a 'porous' (ie leaking) cesspool, but after searching around the web it does not seem to be a septic tank. The ground around here is a clay/flint mantle up to six foot deep with chalk underneath (if that has any bearing on it).
Thanks in anticipation.
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Is K-K-K-Katie's septic tank FAQs still around? If not I've probably got a copy I can post,
J.
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Mary Hinge wrote:

Sounds like an early settlement tank. Possibly compartmentalised. Not sure whether thats septic or not.
Usually there are three compartments in those.
If you do anything to it, strictly it should be re[placed with somehng better under BCO control....should be emptied of solids biennially IMHO.

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Whatever it is, you should probably swap it for a Klargester Biodisc.
Christian.
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Probably. However, you should do a back of the envelope calculation to prove that mains sewerage will be cheaper, especially if doing so still requires ongoing maintenance in the form of a privately owned and supplied pumping system.
You should calculate capital costs (which could be substantial for either), which you should estimate interest and depreciation on. Then calculate running costs, such as a yearly blast out for the Klargester versus the sewerage costs from the water company. You may need to do some ringing around to find the figures. You may also need to make an allowance for land used up, if your garden is small.
Also, if you are in a sleepy hollow right at the bottom of the sewerage system, you might not want a house full of shit coming out of your toilet every time it rains.
Christian.
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Christian McArdle wrote:

You SHOULD...but OTOH, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Chalk is excellent subsoil to process slightly contaminated waste.
I would set aside a piggy vbank, and put about 7 grand in it, fo a biodisc, but don't be in a huirry to make a huge mess of your garden installing it unless you have a definite problem.

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She never said what the problem was or even that there was a problem. I doubt the thing is more than a brick cistern that does drain into the chalk.
Modern problems come from washing-up liquid mainly. It is full of phosphates altering the amount of time it needs to be in the tank. I doubt any official meddling will take place over it though.
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