Let's talk about a subject near and dear to every sailor: sanitary tanks!
On an older sub, the black tanks
are huge (thousands of gallons) and are rated for pretty high pressure, since they are emptied at sea by pressurizing to 100 psi over sea pressure. You can't do it near the surface for fear of detection, but you don't want to do it at test depth
or even moderately deep depths either because of the volume of air involved. Sea pressure is about 46 psi/100 ft, so if you blow sanitaries at 300 ft, you're talking about 138 psi of sea pressure plus 100 psi to get the crap to move, so you have a several thousand gallon tank pressurized to around 230 to 240 psi. Of course you can' blow the tank down to zero, because if you release bubbles, you can get detected, so you stop as close as you can, let's say 100 gal remaining.
As the waste goes overboard
, the pressure drops, so someone has to monitor
the progress and add more air as necessary, then shut the valve. Now you have a nearly empty black tank pressurized to over 200 psi and all of the urinals and toilets are secured until the tank is down to internal hull
pressure. Yes, this means that the huge amount of **** smelling air is vented inboard.
The good news is there are activated charcoal filtered vents placed strategically inside the boat
. The bad news is that the guy controlling the "venting inboard" evolution is being "pressured" to vent faster by a group of guys who really need to take a crap but they can't until the tank pressure is 0 and it's safe to open the toilet 3" ball valve. So he vents inboard too quickly and the foul smelling air "tunnels" through the charcoal filters and they don't really cut the smell that much.
The good news is, in an effort to keep hull
pressure down, they start a HIPAC 4,500 psi air charge, which helps keep the air pressure roughly the same as sea level. The bad news is, this horrible stench is packed into the emergency
4500 psi air banks and the next time we have drills or a real emergency
, we plug
in our EABs and this is the air we are forced to breathe to stay alive. YAY!!
A good friend of mine had the dubious honor of being able to produce the worst farts in the world almost on command. So there we were, on the midwatch, going nice and slow and catching up on paperwork, training, etc in Control when my buddy took a mouthful of trail mix and almost immediately started playing a tune out of his ass. Some people claim his farts were so bad, you could SEE them in the air. Like yellow with blue stripes, or purple with pink dots, etc. Regardless of color, they were paint
pealing, eye watering, EPA Superfund site events
So he starts ripping these bio weapons and as we all scramble to don our Emergency Air Breathing apparatus, he's chuckling and popping more trail mix into his mouth. Everyone in Control who could leave, left. The rest of us were "sucking rubber" which sounds just like a Darth Vader convention.
The Capt. woke up to take a leak and wandered into Control to see how everything was going. At first, he was puzzled why everyone except "B-Rad" was sucking rubber. Then the smell hit him, like a herd of elephants and he nearly dropped to the floor! The Capt hurriedly dons an EAB and then asks, "WTF B-rad! WTH did we ever do to you??"
Maneuvering, which is the nerve center of the engineering spaces, is about 200 ft behind Control and must always be apprised of ship or engineering evolutions. Right then, Maneuvering calls up on the 2MC and asks Control, "Are we venting sanitaries inboard and someone forgot to tell us??" B-Rad grabs the mic and answers, "That's a negative, Maneuvering!" "What the hell is that smell?" The Diving
Officer grabs the mic from B-Rad and says, "B-Rad is eating trail mix again and blowing the place up!" "B-
Rad is blowing the place up, aye!"
After that, the entire crew was told to never let B-Rad get or make his own trail mix, ever again.
The only thing worse than sanitary tanks
on a sub is Midshipmen. Thankfully, we only get them during their summer vacation
. We usually got 4 or 5 for the summer. As is usual when dealing with someone forced upon me, I stayed cordial, helpful and as far away as possible. We NEVER hazed them.
OK, some guys hazed them a little. OK, some other guys might have hazed them a lot. But to be fair, they weren't quite human (nonqual) by submarine standards.
Every time we're in port for a short refit
, someone has to go into ("dive") the empty tank and "close it out." It's usually one enlisted guy and for obvious reason, a very junior officer. This time, the J.O. decided it would be a very good learning
experience for a Middie. The J.O. chose, as I would have, the biggest loser/whiner of the bunch. He treated everyone like trash and even the other Middies hated him, which says a lot.
So they suited him up with a hazmat suit, booties, gloves, an SCBA and a flashlight. They put a harness on him and as he climbed down the rungs into the tank, they held onto the rope
. Once he got to the bottom, they dropped the rope
in and shut and dogged the hatch
. He was pretty fast, he was banging on the hatch
They left him in there for probably 5 or 6 minutes, but it probably felt like forever to him. They finally let him out and he climbed out, took off the Hazmat suit and stormed off to the CO's stateroom. He was screaming at the CO to take everyone involved to Captain's Mast
. The CO could barely hide his smile and finally told the kid something along the lines of, "Listen kid, I'm the CO, you're a middie. You don't EVER tell me what to do!"
Then the CO explained to him that he was given that job by another officer because he was despised by all due to his attitude. It was supposed to be a learning
experience, but instead it could be the end of his career due to his poor behavior. The CO talked to him for quite a while and the kid seemed to really listen.
I do remember his attitude seemed to improve greatly, even when he walked by and someone would sniff and say, "What's that smell??"