A Brief History of Septic Tanks

Septic tanks are so much a part of everyday life in Calgary and Okotoks that it’s hard to imagine life without them.

The fact of the matter is, the modern septic tank only appeared in North America in the early 1880s!

And what a welcome sight it must have been! It’s not hard to imagine what urban centres and rural waterways smelled and looked like before the appearance of septic tanks.


Read on for a brief overview of the history of human waste disposal and the septic tank before it arrived in Calgary and Okotoks:

  • Indus Valley and Mesopotamia. Long, long ago, advanced civilizations in the Middle and Far East had a novel way of dealing with human waste from their concentrated urban centres—dump it downstream… not exactly ecological by today’s standards, but it allowed these urban centres to keep drawing and using water from their respective rivers without fearing for their lives from the polluted water.
  • Ancient Greece and Rome. As population centres grew and spread further and further away from rivers, transporting the waste became an issue. The Greeks responded with the flush toilet which took household waste away into city sewers. The Romans later engineered marvellous sewage and aqueduct systems that took wastewater into the countryside to sewage “treatment” farms which transformed it into fertilizer.
  • Europe. By the late 1700s, the population explosion and concentration brought on by the Industrial Revolution meant more wastewater and fewer places to dump it. The question of the day became how to reduce the volume of waste as much as possible to make it manageable. There were various breakthroughs in filtration and chlorination which served as precursors to modern urban wastewater treatment plants, but the septic tank was yet to come.
  • France, 1860. Simply put, the septic tank was a fortuitous historical accident! A Frenchman by the name of Jean-Louis Mouras built a cement reservoir to store the wastewater from his home. Ten years later, when he went to empty it, he discovered that it was nearly empty except for a small amount of wastewater scum… and the modern septic tank was born!
  • Post-WW II. The population explosion which followed WW II put a terrific strain on waste-treatment centres. Many residents of smaller urban centres and rural areas like Calgary and Okotoks responded by installing septic tanks.


Contact us at WildRose Vacuum Services with all your septic tank needs!

At WildRose Vacuum Services, we provide full service for septic tanks —from installation to pumping to replacement.


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