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Old 18-05-2021, 11:59   #1
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Unhappy Plumbing/tank issue

Ive hit a wall with this and I need some advice.

I purchased a 1990 Catalina 28 a couple of months ago and we have her docked at St Petersburg, FL. Everything has been perfection except for the head. We began to notice the smell and I was hearing a sound from the vent indicating that it was partially obstructed. Additionally, I began to notice that waste water was seeping out of the vent. I wasn't aware of when and how often the previous owner pumped her out so I quickly jumped on getting her to the pump out station, but it could not pull anything up. I double checked the Jabsco y-valve and it was in the correct position.


Using an plumbing snake and some water pressure I cleaned out the vent line as best as I could and a little bit of material made it through the pump out but nothing much. Also I never got the sound of air moving through the vent line.



Ive looked into just throwing money at it by hiring an expert but everyone is too busy or would rather refer me to someone else. I went so far as to take her offshore and use the macerator which produced nothing but a high pitched moan that changed tone after 3-4 min...still nothing.


Help please.
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Old 18-05-2021, 12:40   #2
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Re: Plumbing/tank issue

Congratulations on the boat!

We also found that it’s possible to draw air into the tank via the head by partial actuation of the pump. Basically flushing air. If it was the vent line alone I suspect this would at least allow you to pump out.

Get some really long gloves, throw away towels and plastic bags. We had someone flush a “flushable wipe” once and totally clogged in our tank right next to the pickup. Very similar problems. Had to get access to the tank, clear out all the cushions and things that could be stained. We then removed the cover for the tank and stuck the pump out hose they the vberth hatch and pumped out thru the tank access hatch. Then flushed with water a couple of times and pumped that out of course. Then I had to stick my hand in there and pull the flushable wipe out of the port that leads to that y-valve.

If I knew who did it with certainty I would have made them do it.... but everyone on my boats are warned that only 3 things are allowed to be flushed. Poop, pee, and the toilet paper I have provided. I get very very upset if I have to remove feminine products etc from the system.
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Old 18-05-2021, 13:03   #3
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Re: Plumbing/tank issue

Bah! I sent my response in the wrong text field.



I like the idea and will have to try. I did think to flush while at the pumpout station before I cleaned out the vent line but I didnt partially actuate as you said. I will need to try this. Sadly I do not have a tank access hatch. I have pondered creating one but images in my head of old timey wells striking oil dissuade me.
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Old 18-05-2021, 13:21   #4
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Re: Plumbing/tank issue

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mcartair View Post
Bah! I sent my response in the wrong text field.



I like the idea and will have to try. I did think to flush while at the pumpout station before I cleaned out the vent line but I didnt partially actuate as you said. I will need to try this. Sadly I do not have a tank access hatch. I have pondered creating one but images in my head of old timey wells striking oil dissuade me.
If you don’t have one... well you need one.

Is the Y-valve located above the top of the tank? (In terms of altitude)
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Old 18-05-2021, 13:30   #5
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Re: Plumbing/tank issue

Any tips on a particular access hatch? I can imagine you'd need a most airtight/watertight version. The y-valve is above the tank. You believe that the hydrostatics would have an impact?
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Old 18-05-2021, 13:48   #6
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Re: Plumbing/tank issue

Hatch access, I would prioritize watertightness to everything. Even if it’s glued in place and requires a chisel to remove the glue for access. Personally. I think accessing it is a once every few years type of thing. As long as it’s not a super headache. Mine was a cylinder built into the top of the tank with a cap and about 3 o-rings in between. All of the level sensors were also built into that cap.

The Y-valve being above the tank you might put a bucket under it, and remove the connection to the tank. Hold it up and stick a rod or plumbing snake down there and try to clear that obstruction. I can almost guarantee that you’ve got something clogged either at the Y-valve or just after that hose enters the tank.

The striking oil thing will be true if the tank is super full. Hence asking if it’s above the tank level. Don’t want to clear the log jam and have the river sprout forth. Bucket just as a safety or if you want to empty some of it that way.

Sanitation jobs are of my least favorite on a boat, but since having kids it’s gotten a bit easier. First job on the new boat was dealing with the joker valve. Got it down to a 5 minute job, clean up included.
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Old 18-05-2021, 13:57   #7
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Re: Plumbing/tank issue

https://www.vetus.com/blog/inspection-port-ilt.html
For a start, I’d just follow their direction on install in the future.
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Old 18-05-2021, 14:22   #8
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Re: Plumbing/tank issue

Okay I will start with the y-valve and go from there....thinking of getting a sacrificial second hand wet/dry vac as well. Going back and forth to the pump out is getting annoying. I like the look of that inspection port. im not sure I have that much clearance from the top of the tank to the bottom of the seat tho
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Old 18-05-2021, 14:35   #9
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Re: Plumbing/tank issue

Sounds like a plan.
I’d be curious as to how it goes. I might bring a tape measure with you so you can document the size of the tank, and how much clearance you have where. The documentation doesn’t say what clearance is required for that cap, but looks to be an inch or more. There are lower profile options as well. Even like how my current tanks are done.

I suppose there’s probably a bathroom you can empty that shopvac into.
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Old 01-06-2021, 07:06   #10
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Re: Plumbing/tank issue

Okay just an update. I ended up tapping the brain of a experienced live-aboard near my slip and we hashed it out a bit more using your input (Orin) and what I had in front of me. Given the degree of access and the state of the y-valve (fairly new) and the history, I opted to disengage the pipe at the uppermost portion of the holding tank (i.e head to tank pipe). I chose this to simply depressurize the tank and go from there. I knew with certainty that the portion of pipe from the head to the tank was not blocked. Once depressurized I would be able to flush out the tank with fresh water and suck it out with a wet vac hopefully clearing any potential blockages and attempt to pumpout via the y-valve.


I painstakingly unscrewed the input pipe to the tank while holding the wet vac close by. Small bits of black water and air would escape before I fully disengaged the pipe. I did this for hours with a large amount of baby diapers lining the portion of hull underneath where i was doing this (genius idea from the live-aboard).


In the end I was able to clear out about 7-10 gallons of black water using the wet vac and multiple trips to the marina head. I took note that aire was rushing into the vent line as I was sucking out the last few gallons which gave me hope that this was over with.


The next day I scheduled a pumpout and was able to get the remainder out. at the same time I did the toilet trick by opening it half way and heard air rushing in. I guided a water hose to the head and filled the toilet with the hopes of flushing her out even more while at pumpout and it was a success.

In the end I believe it was simply an overfill issue

We went on a three day voyage over memorial day and things seemed fine. No smell (after an exhaustive clean) and the head seems to be working fine! I am going to schedule another pump out before this weekend and hope that all's well.


Thx for all the advice!
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Old 01-06-2021, 08:19   #11
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Re: Plumbing/tank issue

We owned a 91 Catalina 28 and liked the boat very much. Congratulations.
In general it’s important not to overfill the holding tank and flush the vent line with fresh water at every pump-out.
Interestingly one of the first jobs I did on our boat was to change out the holding tank vent line. Ours came from the factory with vinyl vent line that had permeated and had a bad odor. A way to tell if this is the case is to put on a disposable glove, rub the hose a let your nose determine if there is any odor permeating the hose.

In our boat the vent line snaked back and vented through the port side aft near the rub rail. I changed out the through hull at the same time increasing the vent line size to 3/4” (1” would have been better). Read up and use good quality hose, designed for this application.

I put a small dowel joining the ends of the old and new vent lines, then duct taped over the seam. This allowed us to use old line to pull to new line through the maze. I say us because my wife pushed the line while I pulled the line from the stern access port. Please make sure to use disposable gloves.

In our case the previous owner changed out the sanitary lines but not the vent. With this final hose changed our cabin smelled good even after being closed up in warm weather.

Peggy Halls book regarding marine sanitation systems is well worth the cost.

Good luck,
Ray
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Old 01-06-2021, 10:24   #12
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Re: Plumbing/tank issue

one of the things I have become aware of are holding and septic tank enzyme additives. they are supposedly able to clear sewage blockages and a lot of the solids. but it sounds like you solved your problem.
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