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Old 03-15-2015, 10:31 PM   #1
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Holding Tanks?

Newbie sanitation question:

I hope this story doesn't go on too long, but I want to get all the boring details incase some detail is unexpectedly important.

Bought the boat in November of 2014. Haven't gone on any extended trips so far so have not really used the black water tanks. But the PO didn't empty them before handing the boat over. I've been cleaning the bilge trying to eliminate a greasy odor which, so far I have not been successful at.

The tanks are Stainless Steel. The forward one has an accessible inspection port. The aft one is under a fixed deck and no obvious inspection port.

After pumping the tanks at a waste station and getting all the nasty water out of the bilges I noticed that the aft SS tank did not empty. It has a solid thudding noise when you bang on it where as the forward SS tank sound hollow and echoes. This gave me some things to consider. Is my venting clogged and not allowing the sludge to be sucked out? This full aft tank is the one the macerator pump is connected to. Not sure how this works in a situation where you would want to pump the forward tank overboard? But the macerator is not functional. I have a replacement pump ready to go, and would love to change it but wouldn't dare if the tank is full of coarse!

Since I haven't come up with a game plan I moved onto another project. In the meantime, I noticed that there is an inch of water in the bilge again under the waste tanks and a black residue floating around in it. It's not the freshest smelling either! Now I'm wondering if there is a leak in that tank?

So I'm wondering about how to proceed? I'm on a budget, so need to explore least expensive possibilities first. Looking forward to some input. Thanks!
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Old 03-15-2015, 10:46 PM   #2
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First, stainless steel (or any metal) is a terrible thing to make holding tanks out of. The contents will eat away at metal and start to pinhole them sooner rather than later. I know--- our boat had a stainless tank for the aft holding tank when we bought it.

The best material for a blackwater holding tank is plastic or fiberglass. When the stainless tank in our boat began to pinhole within a year of our buying the boat, we replaced it with a one-piece, vacuum-molded plastic tank that we got through Marine Sanitation in Seattle.

With regard to not being able to pump a tank out there can be several reasons for this. One is clogged pump-out tube, the tube that extends down to the bottom of the tank and is connected to the plumbing going to the pump-out fitting for that tank.

If the tank has a metal pump-out tube, very possible if your tank is metal, eventually the contents of the tank will eat through the tube same as they wll eventually eat through the tank itself. As soon as a hole has been eaten through the tube, the tank will be able to be emptied only to that point. As soon as the hole is exposed to air, no more vacuum. So the capacity of your tank is reduced to the tank volume above the highest hole in the tube. This is why the ideal material for a pump-out tube is PVC or some other plastic material.

The only reliable way to check for a plugged or eaten-away tube is to pull it out of the tank and inspect it.

Now it's possible that the tank vent could be plugged, but this usually means you will start getting tank contents pumped out and then the flow will trickle to a stop as vacuum builds in the tank. An easy way to check a vent tube is to force water up it through its through-hull in the hull. Stick a garden hose into the opening and turn on the water. If you hear water entering the tank inside the boat, the vent is clear.

Since you seem to be experiencing tank problems including a leak now, I suggest you bite the bullet and get rid of both stainless tanks and replace them with plastic tanks. Because it's just a matter of time before those stainless tanks will fail in ways you do not want them to be failing inside your boat.
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Old 03-16-2015, 12:59 AM   #3
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Now the short version.


What he said.


And those pictures are further proof that some people should not be allowed to build boats ever again.
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Old 03-16-2015, 01:09 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Capt.Bill11 View Post
Now the short version.


What he said.


And those pictures are further proof that some people should not be allowed to build boats ever again.

Feel free to add detail to your building critique so I know what to change and what it should look like when I'm done fixing what I don't know is wrong yet.
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Old 03-16-2015, 01:22 AM   #5
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I agree, Capt Bill give the guy a break! He is here looking for education (like we all are), not to be thrown under the bus.....We may want to be a little more user friendly, after all this isn't THT.
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Old 03-16-2015, 01:42 AM   #6
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Teg, A good source of information on how to deal with boat odors is this book by Peggie Hall.



Peggie may pick up on your post and give you some help here.

Like the guys said, metal tanks don't seem to last long when holding black water.

A good source of plastic tanks is a company called Ronco. No, they don't sell the Vegimatic. Ronco Plastics - Marine Water Tanks, RV Water Tank, Auto Detail Tanks, Water Tanks

Hoses can also become saturated and give off an odor. The test for that is to wipe your hoses with a clean damp rag then sniff the rag. If that's the problem, the fix is to replace the hoses.
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Old 03-16-2015, 02:04 AM   #7
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I'm missing something in the photos.

How are the two tanks connected together?
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Old 03-16-2015, 02:11 AM   #8
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I'm missing something in the photos.

How are the two tanks connected together?
I'm not sure. It's very difficult to see where all the hoses are going. It's not a very accessible area. I thought they must be connected since there is only one waste deck fitting.
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Old 03-16-2015, 04:09 AM   #9
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Are you sure both are blackwater tanks? That would be very unusual.
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Old 03-16-2015, 06:43 AM   #10
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I agree, Capt Bill give the guy a break! He is here looking for education (like we all are), not to be thrown under the bus.....We may want to be a little more user friendly, after all this isn't THT.
How am I throwing the OP under the bus? He did not build the boat. I'm just commenting on the fact that the original builder used SS for holding tanks. And the way they are plumbed.
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Old 03-16-2015, 06:52 AM   #11
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Hoses can also become saturated and give off an odor. The test for that is to wipe your hoses with a clean damp rag then sniff the rag. If that's the problem, the fix is to replace the hoses.
As I recall, per Peggie, the correct way to perform that test is to use a hot wet rag/towel, place it on the hose and let it stay there overnight.

But just looking at those black hoses in the picture Id say it's time to replace them.

Unless they are not really being used as black water hose.
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Old 03-16-2015, 06:59 AM   #12
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From your pictures it looks like the aft tank is not connected to the forward one. And as the previous poster said, it would be very unusual to have two holding tanks connected together.

I suspect that one serves the forward head and the other one serves the aft head. The aft tank does not have a deck pump out dip tube, only the macerator pump.

So how do you empty the aft tank? I went through almost exactly the same problem with my friend's 30 year old T/T. The hose to the macerator tank was full of crud and the deck pump out fitting was corroded shut. We pulled off the macerator hose and pushed a water hose inside to back flush the crud. Fortunately it wasn't very full but it did make a hell of a mess.

But in your case it looks like the hose is long enough to pinch shut with a C clamp. Then you can pull off the macerator pump and replace. Open the clamp and if you are real lucky the macerator pump will pump out the tank. If you are not so lucky then you have a couple of poor choices:

The simplest but by far the messiest is to just pull off the hose at the nozzle to the tank and let it dump to the bilge. Pump out the mess with your bilge pump. Flush with water and then use a couple of pints of hydrogen peroxide which will help kill the odors. Then wash the hose out with a garden hose and replace the macerator pump.

The more complicated way is to cut an access port in the top of the tank with a sawsall or similar. Then you can drop a pump out hose down in the tank to empty it. Cover the hole with a stainless plate screwed and glued down with 5200. Remove the macerator hose and clean out the gunk in it and replace the pump.

One benefit to this approach is that you may be able to install a pump out dip tube to the stainless steel cover plate.

And as others have said, stainless steel will sooner or later fail. Roto molded polyethylene tanks by Ronco or others is the permanent solution.

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Old 03-16-2015, 07:16 AM   #13
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"But the macerator is not functional. I have a replacement pump ready to go, and would love to change it but wouldn't dare if the tank is full of coarse!"

A non working macerator is hardly unusual.

If it is above the tank, it will loose suction from stuff stuck in its valve system. R&R .

The preferred location well below the tank sometimes just gets stuck.

Be sure all valves are open and if its 12V use a battery and starter cables to give it a real blast of DC,.

After you either dump, or search the hoses and valves so it can be emptied when you replace the pump install a VALVE , so the pump can be replaced easily.

AS cheap waste pumps get overloaded easily I would install a 120V unit and a cheap inverter to power the unit.

Plan B is to use a higher quality pump like a 120v Obendorfer rather than a cheapo.


If a new tank is in the cards get a low 3 inch discharge spun in the plastic.

Then an RV quality shut off valve can be used , so disconnecting a cheap pump to clear it will not be much of a bothe.

Dupree makes great RV valves.. and 1/4 turn disconnects.
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Old 03-16-2015, 08:53 AM   #14
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I'd pull off the top white hose going into the back tank (have a bucket or catch basin ready) maybe you will be able to look inside with a flashlight to see if it is full. Try to get a smaller suction hose down in there to pump it out into buckets.
How big is the fwd tank maybe you can live with it alone and eliminate the aft, possibly leaking, one. Leave it in place, or take it out, replace it later or not.
Why are some of the hoses wrapped in what looks like saran wrap? maybe that is where the odor is coming from?
Good luck with the project!
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Old 03-16-2015, 08:56 AM   #15
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teqd...

Looking at the photos I have a few questions & suggestions...

It appears that the fwd tank was constructed w/ a sm & lg bolt on access plate / ftg on the top? If so I'd remove the lg one & know for sure what is on the inside - flush the head & observe - pump out & observe. I'm guessing the lg is an inspection / cleaning access and the sm may be for a level gauge?

Does the aft tank have similar access? - do the same

Bottom line try to figure out how these tanks are connected to your head(s), deck pump out ftg and each other?

If these are truly separate tanks serving 2 heads you will probably bave to ad a 2nd deck fitting to allow pump out of the 2nd tank.

It looks like the aft tank macerator line terminates w/ 1-2 elbows (or trap) at the tank? Isn't real clear in the photo so I'm guessing a little... if so it may affect the macerator ability to draw - Can you disconnect this hose at the macerator pump and connect it to a temporary hose that would allow suction pump out? The height of the hose should minimize any spillage if the tank is only partially full.

If you suspect a blocked vent - why not remove the vent hose at the tank and see what happens when you attempt a suction pump out?

If these tanks are removable by removing the hatch support I'd be trying to get them out to replace & replumb them as mentioned above.
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Old 03-16-2015, 08:59 AM   #16
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Greetings,
Mr. t. Oh poop! Well, how I would proceed is:
1) Line the bilge area under and forward of the AFT tank with several layers of newspaper making sure you layer 8"-10" up the sides of the hull and as far under the tank as you can up to the edge of the bottom of the forward tank.
2) Get a bag of Kitty Litter and spread a generous amount on top of the newspaper.
3) Put on HazMat suit, rubber gloves, EYE PROTECTION and gas mask (OK, kidding about the HazMat suit but NOT the eye protection).
4) Remove upper hose on aft tank.
5) Suck out ???? with shop vac to the best of your ablilities (may have to affix smaller hose.
6) When you think you've removed the ???? to the level of the bottom tube, remove bottom tube.
7) Kitty Litter is to hopefully contain any oopsies and newspaper is to limit spread of Kitty Litter.
8) Vacuum up Kitty Litter when finished.
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Old 03-16-2015, 11:21 AM   #17
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I'm not sure. It's very difficult to see where all the hoses are going. It's not a very accessible area. I thought they must be connected since there is only one waste deck fitting.
OK, is the deck pumpout and the macerator pump both connected to the same tank?

If so, how is the other tank going to empty.
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Old 03-16-2015, 12:12 PM   #18
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As a single data point example, our boat has two holding tanks. The one in the engine room is for the forward head. The one in the lazarette is for the aft head. Both systems are totally independent of each other, with their own pump out fittings, macerator pumps for overboard discharge, and so forth.

While never say never, I would be surprised if a boat in the size range that we're talking about had two holding tanks plumbed together, particularly with only one pumpout fitting. There would have to be some way of moving contents from one tank to the other.

The suggestion made earlier to make sure both tanks are indeed holding tanks is a good one unless you already know for sure that both tanks are blackwater holding tanks. The only other reason to have a tank like this onboard is as a fresh water tank. A large hose running into the tank could be a fill hose from the fresh water deck fitting.

In any event, the problems you are starting to experience now provide a good incentive for replacing the metal holding tank(s) and replacing with a good quality plastic tank. And if you do, in fact, have two holding tanks, this could also provide the opportunity to make both systems independent of each other so each tank has its own pump-out fitting.
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Old 03-16-2015, 12:28 PM   #19
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As a single data point example, our boat has two holding tanks. The one in the engine room is for the forward head. The one in the lazarette is for the aft head. Both systems are totally independent of each other, with their own pump out fittings, macerator pumps for overboard discharge, and so forth.

While never say never, I would be surprised if a boat in the size range that we're talking about had two holding tanks plumbed together, particularly with only one pumpout fitting. There would have to be some way of moving contents from one tank to the other.

The suggestion made earlier to make sure both tanks are indeed holding tanks is a good one unless you already know for sure that both tanks are blackwater holding tanks. The only other reason to have a tank like this onboard is as a fresh water tank. A large hose running into the tank could be a fill hose from the fresh water deck fitting.

In any event, the problems you are starting to experience now provide a good incentive for replacing the metal holding tank(s) and replacing with a good quality plastic tank. And if you do, in fact, have two holding tanks, this could also provide the opportunity to make both systems independent of each other so each tank has its own pump-out fitting.

The question about weather both tanks are black water tanks is a good one. The reason I thought they were both black water and connected was that I have a central shower sump that both showers drain to then is pumped overboard. The Kitchen sink drains directly overboard, and although I don't know it for sure, I would have thought each sink would be the same arrangement, overboard. I'll have to confirm that next time I'm at the boat.

My water tank is under the aft cabin bed in the opposite end of the boat.

I think I have some home work to do to answer these questions!

Thanks ALL
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Old 03-16-2015, 12:38 PM   #20
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OK, is the deck pumpout and the macerator pump both connected to the same tank?

If so, how is the other tank going to empty.
The macerator is only connected to the aft (full) tank. As for the deck pumpout, I don't know. I can't tell which hose that is. Do they ever connect more than one tank to a deck pumpout because I only have one deck pumpout fitting, and I know that fitting is at lease connected to the forward tank that is now empty.
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