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Old 04-30-2011, 12:42 AM   #1
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Methane nightmare

Just got back from a first trip this year 600 mile trip with the A/S. Had a strange thing happen while in Eastern Washington State. Camped at a nice park for three days, hooked up, all is well. After the third day I dumped my blackwater tank followed by a good greywater rinse. All is well..
That afternoon we started to smell gas. Thought it was propane, so I shut it all down, no change. I then deduced it had to be methane. Checked everything out no leaks nothing. HINT: the rear bathroom has almost no smell, the bedroom area (midships) had a heavy smell. I looked and looked, finally I laid under the trailer on my back and did an inspection, no seepage, wetness nothing. Then I started to cough and could not stop, so I scrambled out and walked away to get some fresh air. By now it was night, so a friend offered to put me up at his house until we could find the problem. After spending the night, we ripped all bedding out looked at all grey and blackwater lines, checked tanks, looked at both roof vents, not plugged. The smell went away and we came home, no problem. A few days later, I think I figured it out.
We were at the bottom of a slight graded hill, at the lowest point, with about fifteen full service sites above us. I had installed our drain flexpipe and loosely capped the sewer drain pipe in the ground. I am thinking a surge of gas came out of the ground pipe and pooled around the underside and outside area of the trailer. This did NOT happen the first two days...(weird) From now on I will pick the high end only and be sure to cap the ground pipe unless I am dumping. I thought methane was a lighter than air gas and would float away with the wind, but it must be a heavy 'ground hugger' gas. Any comments?????
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Old 04-30-2011, 12:59 AM   #2
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Hi I think you already said it; I always keep the sewer cap on unless I have my sewer hose connected. Leaving the cap off allows the sewer system to vent right there.
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Old 04-30-2011, 06:15 AM   #3
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Good thing you quit smoking, eh?
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Old 04-30-2011, 06:46 AM   #4
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Methane gas

We had a similar problem while set up at a park near Dallas. I dumped the black tank and helped flush everything with steady running water. I even took a shower that helped clear the flex hose of all debris. Almost immediately after closing the black tank valve, I started smelling methane. It was strongest in the mid-bedroom area and the kitchewn/livingroom. The bathroom smelled fine. I opened up the windows and door and turned a fan on and the AC to help clear it out. It took quite a while. After doing this for the third time, I finally fixed the problem:

Because there is no grey tank, I leave the flex hose connected so we can use the sinks and showers whenever we want to and it drains out to the sewer system. I use a ladder support to angle the hose from the trailer to the sewer fitting. Then I started thinking about the methane traveling up the flex hose without blockage and traveling into the grey lines to the sinks and the bathroom. When I open the black tank valve the methane fills the black tank as I keep the valve open to drain the tank. I am not sure why the odor is stronger in the livingroom area but my solution to the problem:...

drop the flex hose in one small section from the ladder support in order to have standing water in the flex hose to prevent free gas travel from the sewer line back to your trailer (just like under each sink and bath). I have not had any methane issues since I made this one simple change.

Tharon
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Old 04-30-2011, 06:52 AM   #5
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Traps on your sink drain should block the methane. Vent stack on the black tank line should get rid of it there. If not you should check to see if your stack and cap are not plugged.
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Old 04-30-2011, 07:47 AM   #6
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Odd that the smell was not in the bathroom.

But it reminds me of something that happened with ours. The rig was plugged in to electricity all winter along, just sitting there. Towards spring (vacation time), I ventured in and smelled sewer gas. Ugly smell. It was strongest mid-ships, weaker in the rear bath and in the front.

I looked and looked and looked, finally following every line as best I could visually. Visually didn't help that much, but my nose did. The battery on our 67 rig is located under one of the two twin beds, and it was the battery that was making the stink. It was boiling.

Long story short: The old converter (not an original, mind you) went stark-raving mad sometime during the winter, so I wound up replacing both battery and converter.

But it sure fooled me. I could have sworn that it was sewer gas.


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Old 04-30-2011, 08:12 AM   #7
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Gray water stinks. We use our shower for storage more than showering. The trap dried out once and gray tank smells permeated the trailer. Yecch!

A bidirectional Fantastic Fan that has an intake setting can pull in vent stack fumes if they are close to each other.
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Old 04-30-2011, 09:50 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eubank View Post
. The battery on our 67 rig is located under one of the two twin beds, and it was the battery that was making the stink. It was boiling.

Long story short: The old converter (not an original, mind you) went stark-raving mad sometime during the winter, so I wound up replacing both battery and converter.

But it sure fooled me. I could have sworn that it was sewer gas.


Lynn
My experience was really the same as your problem but instead of the house batteries boiling it was the rechargeable batteries in the electric bike under the awning. More like H2S sulfurry sewer gas.
Automatic charger decided to keep a constant high volt charge overnnight, while at home it always shut down to a trickle charge.
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Old 04-30-2011, 10:37 AM   #9
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I'm thinking methane is odorless. Maybe someone above your site had a propane leak. Propane has ammonia odor added and it goes down hill.
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Old 04-30-2011, 11:03 AM   #10
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Thanks for these posts. I had never even thought of such a problem so I will be keeping a look out for such issues the next times we camp. jjustice
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Old 04-30-2011, 11:25 AM   #11
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I'm thinking methane is odorless. Maybe someone above your site had a propane leak. Propane has ammonia odor added and it goes down hill.

I was thinking that, too. But then figuring the source, there was probably some sulfides and other organically produced gases in addition to the methane. Methane itself is odorless and colorless, and also is not toxic. Just flammable as hell (pun intended) when it's mixed just right with air. It's pretty safe when contained. What's still puzzling me is that methane is lighter than air. It wouldn't flow downhill, or accumulate in a hollow. I'm guessing the smell was maybe the worst of whatever it was.

Since methane is odorless, how would you even know it was present unless you lit some of it off? I say some of it, because you probably would no longer care if it was present if you lit all of it.
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Old 04-30-2011, 02:56 PM   #12
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Maybe we should all start carrying parakeets in a cage like a miner. Smell something? "Bring me the parakeet honey!"
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Old 04-30-2011, 03:08 PM   #13
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Since methane is odorless, how would you even know it was present unless you lit some of it off? I say some of it, because you probably would no longer care if it was present if you lit all of it.
Methane is a combustible fuel just like propane so if you had a large enough quantity of it in your trailer the detector would go off.
BTW did you know that the propellant in aeresol cans is propane. When ever I had to test the functionality of a propane detector while prepping a new unit for delivery I used a can of air freshener to set off the detector.
My gas sniffer would also react to certain bodily functions also.
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Old 04-30-2011, 03:25 PM   #14
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FYI - The smell in natural gas and propane is a very concentrated additive so you can tell it is present.
I have a feeling that the odor was plain and old decomposing poop (bacteria)
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