It's been nearly four years since I discovered the old septic tank for Veblen House, some fifty feet east of the house. A combination of the tank's thick concrete lid and a whole bunch of distractions had kept us from following up, until yesterday.
Some magical combination of volunteer chemistry finally stirred in us the courage to take on the concrete lid. After four years, it had grown over with myrtle and partially disappeared under years of leaves.
However, our procrastination may have been strategically helpful. Perhaps it was prolonged exposure to the elements that created some cracks in the concrete, making it possible to remove it in pieces.
With the lid removed, we were finally able to look at how this very old septic tank once functioned.
Unlike a more modern septic tank, this one is round, built mostly of cinder blocks. Several courses of bricks were laid around the top to narrow the opening. A pipe came in from the house sewer system,
and another pipe headed out and down the slope, presumably to a leach field. There had been some question as to whether this would be a cesspool rather than a septic tank, but some research suggests that cesspools lack any outgoing pipe.
Though the septic tank hasn't been used in 25 years, it was nearly filled with water, which we assume is groundwater that has penetrated through the walls. The tank is about six feet deep, with less than a foot of muck at the bottom, as best we could tell.
It's extremely unlikely that we'd be able to use this old tank for house septic, but it is a historic artifact that we're glad to now know a little more about. We carefully covered it back up, our curiosity satisfied.