How Safe Are Above Ground Wastewater Holding Tanks?

Written by jennifer kim
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How Safe Are Above Ground Wastewater Holding Tanks?
Outdoor septic tank (Pump Station image by Midwest Yankee from

Above ground waste water holding tanks, also known as holding tank sewage systems (HTSS), differ from the typical underground sewage systems in that the former is meant to temporarily collect and store waste from various facilities and residences. Due to expenses associated with hauling, pumping, and removing the waste, in addition to the risk of potential leakage of the sewage material during these steps, the use of HTSS are strictly regulated under local environmental and health agencies. Under such regulations and guidelines, the use of HTSS can be quite safe.

Function of Water Holding

HTSS is comprised of a main holding tank where the waste is collected and stored and a pump system that pumps the waste water in and out. Additionally, the system also requires a method by which the waste is removed and transported to an off-site location where the waste can be properly treated and disposed.

Health Considerations

Health and safety risks associated with HTSS involve potential leakage and spillage of the waste material during the storage and transport of the waste material, resulting in above ground exposure to waste and contamination of underground water systems.

As such, HTSS must strictly adhere to scheduled and monitored pumping services to remove waste on a periodic basis. Moreover, the entire system, from installation to maintenance, must be designed so as to prevent exposure of waste material.


Strict regulations and policies ranging from proper piping, alarm systems, overflow provisions, and operation and maintenance guidelines will help prevent hazardous situations from arising. As long as the operator adheres to the provisions set forth by the local health authority, usage of above ground waste water holding tanks should not pose any risk to the facility or its adjoining neighbours.

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