How to make a septic tank with a 55 gallon drum

Written by victoria ries
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In days gone by, temporary septic tanks were made from anything handy at the time, including 55-gallon drums or barrels. Although these drums or barrels had a relatively small capacity, they worked well and solved the immediate problem of containing raw sewage. In areas with no zoning or building restrictions, 55-gallon drums or barrels may still be used as a temporary solution before other more permanent methods of waste containment are put in place.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Jigsaw
  • 1-by-10-foot-long, 3-inch-diameter black PVC pipe
  • 1-by-10-foot-long leach-line pipe
  • 55-gallon plastic drum or barrel with lid
  • Cinders

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  1. 1

    Dig a hole in line with the bathroom 10 feet away from the structure that needs a temporary septic tank. Dig down at least 8 feet in order to achieve good gravity flow when you flush the toilet and to prevent sewage backup.

  2. 2

    Dig a trench 2 feet down directly in front of the hole away from the structure. The trench should be 10 feet in length. This will be your leach line.

  3. 3

    Take the jigsaw and cut a hole 4 inches below the top in the side of the plastic barrel to fit the 10-foot-long leach line, 3-inch-diameter PVC black pipe. Make sure the hole is big enough for the pipe.

  4. 4

    Lower the 55-gallon plastic barrel into the hole and fit the black PVC leach-line pipe. Cover the leach line with black plastic and a thick layer of cinders. Backfill the leach line with the dirt you removed while digging the line.

  5. 5

    Fit the other 10-foot section of solid PVC pipe from the structure and into the bung hole in the top of the drum or barrel. Cover the entire drum or barrel lid with black plastic, and backfill with dirt to ground level.

Tips and warnings

  • Add a natural septic digester, available at any ranch supply store, to your temporary septic tank.
  • Do not drive or park over the temporary septic tank.

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