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A cistern in the backyard, what to do?

BuckeyeOhio | Posted in General Questions on

Just before the winter I discovered a cistern in the backyard. The house was built in 1888 with two adjoining lots attached. These lots are now empty, but used to have (2) additional homes next to the main house.

As I exposed the hole upon digging it up I found this cistern. It is lined inside with brick and an thin layer of plaster from that period. There is about three feet open from the top to the surface that is not filled with dirt. I can see at least two clay pipes coming into the cistern.

My question: Should I fill this in and forget I found it? Or should I excavate it and maybe hook my gutters from the house to it and maybe that underground pipe. Fill it with rain water and use it to water the yard, garden or whatever? It sounds amazing and quite the green project, but I cannot find anything online of someone that has attempted this. A pump pulling out the water. Two, someone even suggested I could get a tax credit for collecting water in Ohio.

Let me know your thoughts if this is even a worthwhile idea. Could be fun as I have no idea how deep it goes!


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  1. BuckeyeOhio | | #1

    Forgot to include the house right by the cistern for visual.

  2. rocket190 | | #2

    My vote is that you fill it in. Besides the obvious danger to children or animals, it's a direct path of contamination to your groundwater, especially if a well supplies your drinking water. The safest best is to fill the hole with bentonite chips. If it's too large an area to be practical, at least seal the bottom with bentonite and you impermeable compacted fill for the balance. Bentonite chips should be available at your local plumbing supply house. I prefer the 3/8"size.

  3. STEPHEN SHEEHY | | #3

    Is it a cistern or a cesspool? Either way, fill it in.

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