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Old 19-11-2019, 07:04   #1
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Effect of dye test on septic system biotic health

We have a perfectly functioning modern MSD with a well- ventilated tank and use Raritan KO exclusively (and CP to clean) with good results in our second season of cruising the ICW and East Coast. We are happy with its performance.

I replumbed this system myself 3 years ago, with all new materials and valves other than the existing Raritan head, the 20-gallon tank, and the deck pumpout which I reused/rebuilt. I have the Head-Mistress' book, and I followed her advice when designing my new system. I put two new 1" takeoffs and hoses onto the tank for vent pipes to ensure pleanty of cross-ventilation, and installed a Y-valve between the tank and and the deck pumpout to feed a macerator pump plumbed to a through hull. There is a lockoff not only on the Y-Valve but there is a keyed electrical switch on the macerator on-off control. Only crew with access to these keys could ever operate the overboard pump option.

I have no fear of failing an inspection, and know I am in compliance with inland MSD rules, even in the Great Lakes. We've been inspected and have passed tests by harbormasters and annual USCG auxillary inspections. But we have yet to encounter this Dye Test in our travels. But that seems to be changing now that increased enforcement in places like Vero Beach are using these dye packs to test compliance.

My fear is what are the effects of these "dye packs" that seem to be all the rage with local jurisdictions in Florida and elsewhere to "test" that there is no discharge coming from your system? Will this dye formulation in my system hurt my tank's healthy biotic balance? Will it act as a poison to good bacteria? Most people use the green poison head treatment and those of us using Raritan or other such enzyme products are in the minority. I fear that our needs may not be considered when these dye packs are formulated, not caring that they be biologically non-harmful to those of us using natural enzyme products.

Raritan firmly states that No Other Product besides their own system should ever be introduced to the system other than natural human waste products and flush water.

If I am required by law-enforcement to flush a dye pack down my head am I going to end up at a pumpout/fuel dock soon after flushing my system for an hour or two to get some persistent poison out of my tank which will interfere with the naturally healthy operation of my tank's biotics? Am I then going to be accused of trying to cheat the system just because their dye is causing my head vents to stink very badly?
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Old 19-11-2019, 08:12   #2
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Re: Effect of dye test on septic system biotic health

Quote:
Originally Posted by BlackHeron View Post
We have a perfectly functioning modern MSD with a well- ventilated tank and use Raritan KO exclusively (and CP to clean) with good results in our second season of cruising the ICW and East Coast. We are happy with its performance.

I replumbed this system myself 3 years ago, with all new materials and valves other than the existing Raritan head, the 20-gallon tank, and the deck pumpout which I reused/rebuilt. I have the Head-Mistress' book, and I followed her advice when designing my new system. I put two new 1" takeoffs and hoses onto the tank for vent pipes to ensure pleanty of cross-ventilation, and installed a Y-valve between the tank and and the deck pumpout to feed a macerator pump plumbed to a through hull. There is a lockoff not only on the Y-Valve but there is a keyed electrical switch on the macerator on-off control. Only crew with access to these keys could ever operate the overboard pump option.

I have no fear of failing an inspection, and know I am in compliance with inland MSD rules, even in the Great Lakes. We've been inspected and have passed tests by harbormasters and annual USCG auxillary inspections. But we have yet to encounter this Dye Test in our travels. But that seems to be changing now that increased enforcement in places like Vero Beach are using these dye packs to test compliance.

My fear is what are the effects of these "dye packs" that seem to be all the rage with local jurisdictions in Florida and elsewhere to "test" that there is no discharge coming from your system? Will this dye formulation in my system hurt my tank's healthy biotic balance? Will it act as a poison to good bacteria? Most people use the green poison head treatment and those of us using Raritan or other such enzyme products are in the minority. I fear that our needs may not be considered when these dye packs are formulated, not caring that they be biologically non-harmful to those of us using natural enzyme products.

Raritan firmly states that No Other Product besides their own system should ever be introduced to the system other than natural human waste products and flush water.

If I am required by law-enforcement to flush a dye pack down my head am I going to end up at a pumpout/fuel dock soon after flushing my system for an hour or two to get some persistent poison out of my tank which will interfere with the naturally healthy operation of my tank's biotics? Am I then going to be accused of trying to cheat the system just because their dye is causing my head vents to stink very badly?
Not a concern.

In fact, only a few brands still use antiseptic ingredients, and not in all of their product lines.

(I've done a lot of head testing. More to the point, I've done the engineering for city-scale facilities that biologically treat up to 100,000 gallons per day of holding tank and chemical toilet waste as an isolated stream. There are other chemicals, including bronopol and quatrenary amines, that cause all manner of trouble, but the dye is not a problem. Your tank's "biotics" are nearly that fragile.)


As an aside, the modern "eco" treatments that work so well in holding tanks don't really work for beans in portable toilets (no ventilation). Thus, "poison" is still the only approach that works. That is why it is common in port-a-johns as well. Hopefully someone invents a substitute.
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Old 19-11-2019, 09:06   #3
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Re: Effect of dye test on septic system biotic health

I'd love to hear from someone that personally experienced a dye test. Not hearsay or a friend of a friend said he got tested. I'd like to hear about an actual first hand experience.


I've ask countless cruisers and mates living in the marinas and no one has every had this test performed on their head system. I'm staring to think the blue dye head test falls along the lines of the infamous "peeing in the pool blue dye test threat" we always heard about in our youth....


other factors: ICW water is tannin colored. Is blue dye going to show up? that water is pretty dark already. Also, you have a holding tank. Is the blue dye going to be of significant enough volume to show up after being mixed with the contents of a holding tank.


I know this strays from your original question, but i've often had the same concerns and in my very very informal investigations, no one has ever seemed to experienced the test...stateside anyway... can't speak to offshore or overseas.
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Old 20-11-2019, 06:48   #4
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Re: Effect of dye test on septic system biotic health

When one visits Catalina Island, the harbor master will routinely drop a dye tablet into one's head and ask one to pump it through the system. Whoa betide anyone that discovers a red "cloud" in the water around their boat! The dye is merely a "food coloring" like material that seems to have no effect on the head or one's holding tank. BTDT...
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Old 20-11-2019, 08:02   #5
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Re: Effect of dye test on septic system biotic health

"Food Coloring" is not all that persistent. It is a very weak dye and once it has been diluted will pretty much disappear. These dyes must be a lot more dense and persistent than that to be of any use, especially to be in a package small enough to be useful for the folks doing the testing, while still leaving a visibile trail in the murky water of many spots on the ICW.

If, as Thinwater said above, that most dye brands no longer use antiseptic products, and they are not used in all of their product lines it still doesn't help us if that is the product that Florida Fish and Wildlife officers decide to buy and use. Because why should they even care? It's not their problem.

The reason I am asking is that the Vero Beach city council has it in their heads that most cruisers who stop in at their marina are simply not using the pumpout and just dumping raw sewage into the lagoon instead.. There are a couple of local "enviornmenal groups" who are behind this new push. They have already created new rules and communicated with the harbormaster at the city marina to implement them such as requiring ALL boats arriving to be pumped out at at check-in and installing one of their special tags on wye-valves and through hulls and have stated that there will be random checks for compliance, and also staring that Fish and Wildlife will be using dye packs as part of this new effort and stepping them up this year.

Time will tell if the dye packs are just a threat or not. Last year there were random inspections while we were there, and dye packs were reportedly used, so I see no reason they will not walk the walk if they are as serious about this as they say now.

For the record I have no problems having my system locked off, nor do we have any need to violate the clean water act as pumping out is a simple and painless procedure that we have been doing about once a week for almost two years. Simple and painless, of course, only when there are pumpout facilities nearby that are actually in working condition and available to us.

Even in total compliance with lockout rules it only takes seconds for me or my wife to unlock the lock, turn the valves, and flip the keyed switch to start the macerator pumping out the tank. It empties in about a minute and It only takes seconds to return the valves back to their "legal" positions. It's our boat and we have access to all of the keys. Nothing is stopping us but our own sense of ethics. We rarely have guests and none of these valves are in or near the head to be tampered with in any case. Like most laws they are only obeyed by the folks who wouldn't violate them anyhow. Those who want to poop in the marina or the harbor next to their neighbors will do so anyhow.

Unless the tags are numbered, impossible to forge, and records are kept to be certain that the tag you were issued is the same exact registered tag you have upon inspection, a tag-out system is simply eye-wash.. The costs to implement this type of rigid oversight might be prohibitive, requiring paperwork and cooperation between the harbormasters and staff of the marina and the inspecting authorities.

This is all becoming ridiculous and we are contemplating simply skipping Vero Beach alltogether this year instead of stopping for a week or two. It used to be a nice place to chill and hang out with a lot of other cruisers, new friends and old, before moving on further south or across the stream. But if in addition to jumping through hoops, doing and keeping more paperwork aboard, and being treated like a criminal with regular random checks by LEOs tromping through my home at any hour at a moment's notice and pawing through my personal effects to access and inspect valves, and now in addition to worrying about them messing up my septic tank's health then I think we would rather just skip the Velcro experience and go somewhere else from now on.
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Old 20-11-2019, 08:38   #6
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Re: Effect of dye test on septic system biotic health

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Originally Posted by tn3sport View Post

... ICW water is tannin colored. Is blue dye going to show up? that water is pretty dark already. Also, you have a holding tank. Is the blue dye going to be of significant enough volume to show up after being mixed with the contents of a holding tank...
The dye test is for checking to see if people are DIRECT DISCHARGING, not pumping out the holding tank. Think flushing and it going directly overboard.
Yes, it will show up. I think people should be fined for it.

You want to come through where I live and fish? Don't flush your poop overboard. Please don't misunderstand me, I am not saying you do this but some people do.

I am tired of people flushing their poo where I fish.
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Old 20-11-2019, 09:56   #7
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Re: Effect of dye test on septic system biotic health

I am literally on way up the companionway, but wanted to drop a dye tablet into the misconceptions:

First, this is a statewide sweep; you'll have to avoid more than just Vero.

Second, it's liquid; a mere splash of green liquid, which, at least in my boarding, was carried in a bottle in a holster on the belt of the officer.

Third, the notations of the complainants are probably mistaken. I don't know exactly what it is, but I'd bet it's not organic. If you want to spend hours at a dock flushing, have at it, but I very much doubt the officials will be putting anything down the toilet (if it goes overboard) which will have any impact on your system.

Gotta run, but it's just noise. The objective in Vero is to get a clean sweep and have a big stick to respond to those accusing the cruisers of fouling the water, when normal runoff and the occasional sewage spill is considerably more harmful than if everyone did, in fact, pump overboard...
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Old 21-11-2019, 08:59   #8
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Effect of dye test on septic system biotic health

I noticed something unusual when I was tooling around the canals of Vero last year in the dinghy, there were several what looked like springs in the canals, you know strong upwelling of water. I asked a resident what was going on and found out that pumps had been installed to aerate the water because bacteria counts were high, now this wasnít anywhere near the marina and well up the canals, and Iíd bet money was a result of fertilizer run off, but I can guarantee you that blaming those boats will get a whole lot of traction, because people donít want to be told itís them over fertilizing their golf courses and yards that the problem.

Pump puts in Vero used to be free, and a pump out boat comes to you? Iím certain that when we were there which has been a couple of years we were on a bi-weekly pump out schedule cause I canít quite go a full week on our 35 gl tank.
If so, then why direct discharge?
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Old 21-11-2019, 09:12   #9
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Re: Effect of dye test on septic system biotic health

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I noticed something unusual when I was tooling around the canals of Vero last year in the dinghy, there were several what looked like springs in the canals, you know strong upwelling of water. I asked a resident what was going on and found out that pumps had been installed to aerate the water because bacteria counts were high, now this wasnít anywhere near the marina and well up the canals, and Iíd bet money was a result of fertilizer run off, but I can guarantee you that blaming those boats will get a whole lot of traction, because people donít want to be told itís them over fertilizing their golf courses and yards that the problem.

Pump puts in Vero used to be free, and a pump out boat comes to you? Iím certain that when we were there which has been a couple of years we were on a bi-weekly pump out schedule cause I canít quite go a full week on our 35 gl tank.
If so, then why direct discharge?
Actually, the pumpout boat is 3x weekly, by appointment.

Due to the considerable cost to provide that service (including a new engine for the boat at multiple thousands, and normal maintenance plus driver salary), it's now $5 to get the boat alongside.

However, pumpouts at the fuel dock are still free, and in both cases you'll have a receipt.

Having a tie on your valve, and a recent pumpout receipt should make any official visit very brief...
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