Septic Maintenance

Conventional septic system diagram

Septic System Process

All homes in Eastham are served by private septic systems. Most septic systems consist of a septic tank, distribution box, and a soil absorption system. Septic tanks remove solids from wastewater and the soil absorption system "treats" effluent. The septic tank holds wastewater for at least 24 hours, allowing solids to settle at the bottom. Solids should be pumped from the tank every 3 to 5 years depending on use. Effluent from the septic tank enters the soil absorption system (also called a leaching pit) and filters through the soil to groundwater. Soil absorption systems are designed with enough separation between effluent entering and high groundwater for removal of nutrients.

Innovative/Alternative (I/A) Septic Systems

Some homes in Eastham are required to have an innovative/alternative (I/A) septic system. This type of septic system provides additional removal of nutrients from the septic effluent. I/A systems are required to be monitored and sampled by an authorized wastewater operator. For more information on I/A systems, you should consult an engineer.


Cesspools, an older type of septic disposal, are no longer permitted in Eastham. Cesspools must be upgraded to a Title 5 septic system at any transfer of ownership and building project.