Long Island Cesspool Sinkhole Fiasco

Cesspool Collapse Kills One

According to Wikipedia, a cesspool, also known as a cesspit, is a “term…used to describe an underground holding tank (sealed at the bottom) or a soak pit (not sealed at the bottom) …used for the temporary collection and storage of feces, excreta or fecal sludge as part of an on-site sanitation system and has some similarities with septic tanks or with soak pits. Traditionally, it was a deep cylindrical chamber dug into the earth, having approximate dimensions of [1-3 meters of] depth. The pit can be lined with bricks or concrete, covered with a slab and needs to be emptied frequently when it is used like an underground holding tank.”

Cesspools are a popular form of waste management on Long Island- there are over 350,000 in Suffolk County alone.

However useful they are, cesspools are also prone to collapse. In May, a cesspool in Huntington collapsed, creating a major sinkhole which swallowed 59-year-old Edward Sinnott, killing him. Cranes and emergency personnel were quick to the scene, but were unable to extricate Mr. Sinnott in time. Police and firefighters fought in tandem tirelessly, working through the earth and debris, but ultimately, failed in their rescue attempts. His body was eventually pulled from the mud at around 7PM; nearly 6 hours after he was first sucked in.

The hole created was massive- spanning across most of a front yard and the adjoining driveway. At its thickest it was, onlookers remarked, wider than two cars parked side-by-side.

In this article, we review the reasons why cesspools collapse and what you can do to prevent your cesspool from collapsing.

Why Do Cesspools Collapse?                                                                                                                                                                                                             

A New York Times article interviewed Wayne Isaacson, installation manager for Citywide Sewer and Drain Service in Carle Place, who said that most cesspool collapses occur in the spring and fall. According to him, old age is the primary reason cesspools collapse.

He added: “They are most vulnerable to collapse when they are empty because there is no pressure on the walls.” The Times article went on to say that “rainy weather is also a factor, especially after a fast thaw when moisture soaks the ground.”


What’s the Difference Between Septic Tanks and Cesspools?

There is one major difference between septic tanks and cesspools. In septic tanks, waste mater is treated and diluted via bacterial action. In cesspools, waste matter “percolates,” and is diffused through their cement and / or brick walls, leaching back into the surrounding soil. For this reason, cesspools are sometimes referred to as “leaching pools.”


What You Can Do to Prevent Your Cesspool from Collapsing

 As always, it’s best to prevent an accident instead of having to react to one. If you own a cesspool, here are some helpful tips you can follow so as to avoid your cesspool collapsing:

  • Have your cesspool inspected by a trained professional at least once every three years. Routine check-ups will help you detect any potential problems.
  • Have your tank pumped once every 3-5 years. Waiting any longer could cause an overflow. For a more specific guide to how often a tank should be pumped, we refer to the EPA website. According to the EPA, there are “four major factors [which] influence the frequency of septic pumping.”
    • Household size
    • Total wastewater generated
    • Volume of solids in wastewater
    • Septic tank size
  • Retain maintenance records of all upkeep and service performed on your tank. This will help you keep track of all maintenance completed which will, in turn, help you plan for future service.
  • Also via the EPA.gov website: “Your septic tank includes a T-shaped outlet which prevents sludge and scum from leaving the tank and traveling to the drainfield area. If the bottom of the scum layer is within six inches of the bottom of the outlet, or if the top of the sludge layer is within 12 inches of the outlet, your tank needs to be pumped.”


Tucker Lawyers PC

Have you or a loved one been hurt in a cesspool-related injury? Are you a plumber or other worker who, due to the negligence of a boss or overseer, has been injured on the job? Has faulty property-management caused an accident in which you were involved? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, it may be within your rights to sue for compensation. This compensation will help defray the costs of expensive medical bills and keep you and your family financially secure as you recover from your injuries. At Tucker Lawyers PC, we have a compassionate and knowledgeable team of attorneys who are experienced in all types of injury law. So if you’ve been hurt, you owe it to yourself to retain the counsel of the best. Contact Tucker Lawyers PC today – our consultations are a free and easy way to get started.


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Managing Attorney John. J. Tucker, Esq.

John has personally handled thousands of clients who were victims of another’s negligence and fights relentlessly for their rights. John enjoys bringing closure to a client’s matter so that the injured party can move forward with their life. His background enables him to evaluate complex liability related claims and bring resolution to claims in a record time frame. [ Attorney Bio ]

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