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Old 05-31-2010, 12:33 PM   #1
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terrible smell from holding tanks

Just finishing up our first trip in our new to us trailer and it seems no matter how much chemical I put in the black tank it continues to smell. Sometimes it is so strong you can't even stand to be in there. Any suggestions on what to do next are greatly appreciated.
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Old 05-31-2010, 01:19 PM   #2
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It could be from sediment in the bottom of the tank. Id put at least 3/4 tank of water treated with chemical and let it set for a day or so to loosen things up. Empty and agitate while empting with water or maybe a mop down the toilet hole. Rinse once or twice. if that doesnt work you may have a vent problem, but it sounds like it needs a good cleaning. YUCK
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Old 05-31-2010, 02:34 PM   #3
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This may seem like and odd question Jonathan, but do you empty your tanks prior to leaving camp? And when you drain the black tank, do you make sure it's at least 3/4 full? I actually know of folks that don't use any chemicals in their black tanks (us included), but when camping we usually dump every 4-5 days if just the two of us camping. We then add some water to slosh around down there while we drive to the next destination/home.
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Old 05-31-2010, 04:11 PM   #4
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Barrelslime may be correct, especially if the trailer is new to you and the previous owners did not get the tank clean before storing it.

Another possibility is that the tank outlet got clogged when you thought you had emptied it completely when leaving the campground--that can happen if there is too little liquid in the tank when you attempt to dump and/or paper and other solids clog the opening and prevent the liquids from draining.

There is a technique to clearing a clogged outlet if you are pretty quick and have good hand-eye coordination. Close both the gray water and black water valves and let the drain hose drain into the dump station inlet until the hose is empty. Then remove the drain hose from the dump station inlet but leave it attached to the trailer drain line. Raise the dump station end of the drain hose about 4 feet off the ground and fill the drain hose about 1/2 to 3/4 full with water from the dump station water supply. Now, while still holding the drain hose end high open the black water dump valve and let the water flow INTO the black water holding tank. If you are feeling confident, you can lower and raise the drain hose quickly a few times to create a back and forth movement of the water which will dislodge most blockages. Finally, after quickly raising the drain hose a final time VERY QUICKLY reinsert the outlet end of the drain hose back into the dump station inlet and let the black water tank drain completely.

You can verify that the black water tank is completely empty by going inside your trailer, holding open the toilet flush valve and looking in with a flashlight. There should be no more than 1/8 to 1/4 inch of water remaining in the tank.

After the tank is empty and the outside dump valve is closed, put 2-3 gallons of water in the toilet along with chemical deoderizer. During your trip home this water-deoderizer mixture will slosh around and kill bacteria as well as disolve any small particles of waste.

One other thought--there is a vent pipe from your holding tanks to the roof of your trailer. If the trailer was in storage before you purchased it, a bird or other animal may have built a nest in it preventing proper venting. This is the least likely scenario but one for you to be aware of if other interventions do not solve your problem.

Let us know how you resolve your problem--inquiring minds (and other owners with similar problems) want to know!
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Old 06-01-2010, 09:30 PM   #5
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Thanks for the responses. I got it to smell better after dumping the tank and flushing with ALOT of water. I also treated the grey tank the same way just in case the smell was coming from there. I am pretty sure I dont have any blockage because when i opened the valve the water rushed out very quickly. I also made sure the tank was almost full when I dumped it. Before we left i flushed the tank several times then put chemical and about 5 gal of water in it to wash around while traveling. I will also check the vent just to make sure it is clear. Thanks again for the help.
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Old 06-01-2010, 09:46 PM   #6
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glad ya got er figured out
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Old 06-02-2010, 10:02 AM   #7
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This raises a question from a newbie like me - does the chemical go in the tank before using or after cleaning? I had assumed I would put one of the chemical drops that I still have from my old canister when we got to camp (and filled the black tank with some water) and then another one after rinsing clean.
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Old 06-02-2010, 11:03 AM   #8
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I would put it in when you get to the campground, to treat while its in use. Periodicly thru the year you could fill tank, treat and let it set to clense and rinse.
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Old 06-02-2010, 12:59 PM   #9
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Darrin -
We always add the chemicals after we empty the tanks and add water (about 5 - 8 gallons). My wife does this after I close the black tank valve and finish with the grey tank. She will add the chemicals and the water. When she is done, I am usually done with the dirty job outside.

jonathan28 - Another possible problem said by "Texas Sam" is the vent pipe.
It may be a good idea to check that vent pipe as well. Birds/Bugs/Bees could made a nest on top and clogged the vent.
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Old 06-05-2010, 09:33 PM   #10
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Glad the odor is clearing out. I start out with a clean tank with just a few gallons of water. I add liquid Calgon and a cup of nice smelling laundry detergent. Look up Geo Method on the Web for more details. When leaving a campsite, I dump the black, then the grey tank. I then run the built in sprayer to really clear it out, opening and closing the valve a few times. I purchased a see through elbow that hooks onto to sewer hose. This way I can keep the sprayer running until I see clear water coming out of the black tank. Once done, I shut the valves, let the black tank fill with fresh water (a few gallons) and add fresh Calgon and Detergent. Just before we take off, I sometimes dump ice cubes down the toilet. They slosh around down in the tank while driving down the road, cleaning the tank even more. This is our 2nd year with this RV and no odor.
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