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Old 04-12-2008, 10:11 PM   #1
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1973 Argosy 22
Hendersonville , Tennessee
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A nasty surprise

I just brought a new to me '73 Argosy 22 home on Tuesday. I was futzing with the two roof vents this afternoon and after I finished dedided it was time to aquaint myself with the toilet.

I don't imagine I'm the first to have this experience, but long disgusting story short, the black tank is full of dried out poop.

I don't mean half full, I mean full. When I stepped on the toliet lever and looked with a flashlight I almost gagged.

The valve is open, so perhaps the water was drained where it sat and not the solids.

I guess the first order of business is to close the valve and fill with water and some septic tank enzyme. I have some Bio-Clean for the house, and the label mentions RV holding tanks. Then let it sit for a few days.

I've read about the ice with a bit of detergent then drive around and dump, repeat as often as necessary, cure for black hills so that is what I will do.

Is there another way to check the level of the black water tank when there is no indicator?

Any further suggestions are most welcome.

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Old 04-12-2008, 10:46 PM   #2
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Naples, FL , Hood River, OR
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Condolences! Your methods are surey worth a try....but in my expeience, when the 'Black Hills Syndrome' hits your waste usually involves a complete tank replacement, as the dried solids can usually never be completely removed.

The previous owner probably suscribed to that worthless old idea of leaving the black tank open all the time....which results in the exact situation that you have now. All of the liquids drain out of the tank and leave the solids to dry and build up.

Give it a have nothing to lose before having to replace the tank!

Lew Farber...ABYC Certified Master Marine Electrician...RVIA Certified Master Tech ...AM Solar Authorized Installation Center...AIRSTREAM Solar & Electrical Specialist...Micro Air 'Easy Start' Sales and Installations
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Old 04-12-2008, 10:53 PM   #3
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1956 22' Flying Cloud
Venice , California
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yup, i'd agree with lew. looks like you're probably going to need to replace the black tank. if your handy with tools, you could do it yourself. if not you'll need to find someone to help you or pay an rv repair place to do the replacement for you.

tanks are their complete own topic and many threads have been written about them. FWIW, i'm in the process of replacing mine and ordeedr my black and grey tanks from this place, note they are made of ABS plastic;

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Old 04-12-2008, 10:57 PM   #4
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This may sound even more disgusting - but, it may work. When a septic pumper operator "sevices" a septic tank, he puts an "egg beater" agitator on the end of a weedeater type machine and mixes up all of the solids so they can be pumped out. You may try a modified version of this. Add some water and mix it up, then drain it.
Sorry, nasty job any way you look at it.
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Old 04-13-2008, 06:59 AM   #5
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1993 21' Sovereign
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I can only suggest two things:
1- only fill the black tank half-full with water, this will maximize the "slosh" when you go out and take your black tank for a drive.
2- I've had good results with Rid-X septic treatment. If you don't get immediate results, you can then fill your black tank, and let it sit. Come back a few days or a couple of weeks later, and repeat the drive around, then try to dump again.
Meddle not in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy, and taste good with ketchup.
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Old 04-13-2008, 07:19 AM   #6
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I've seen one washed out with an 90 degree adapter on the end of a pressure washer wand. It's a messy job, but it can be done. Sorry the PO did that to you.
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Old 04-13-2008, 07:23 AM   #7
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This is something that everyone should add to their trailer inspection list when going to buy an Airstream. Did you thank the person you bought it from, I would. Thanks for not posting pictures.


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Old 04-13-2008, 07:28 AM   #8
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Unless you're wanting to really give your gag response a workout, I'd just have the old tank replaced. Besides the new tank, you'll be able to check out and R&R fittings, etc.. You'll probably need to really sanitize the water tank and clean out the grey tank, too... sounds like maybe the previous owners weren't too careful.

Seems to me, I remember George Carlin had a routine just on this very topic... or at least what's in the tank...

And seeing how the job's not going to be a pleasant one, I go to a place you probably won't be going back to much...
Bill & Kim
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The trouble with trouble is it always starts out as fun...
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Old 04-13-2008, 07:33 AM   #9
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1972 25' Tradewind
Madison , Wisconsin
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Try this before replacing the tank. I am assuming there is no leakage....test the tank first, by putting 5 gallons of water in the tank first and letting it sit over night to look for leaks Add food coloring or plumbers dye to the water if you want to make leaks easier to detect. Use rubber gloves an old long sleeve shirt and eye protection.

1 Soften the deposits first by adding about a 1/2 quart of battery acid to two or three gallons of water. Slowly Add The ACID ot the WATER...not the other way around. Sulfuric acid attacks many organic compounds and can cause sever burns.

2 let this sit over night.

3 Add a box of baking soda to two gallons of water.

4 Very slowly add the baking soda to the tank. Add it over about ten minutes and allow all of this to sit for about an hour. Make another batch of soda & water put that into the tank and allow to sit for 10-15 min.

5 Drain the tank

6 Get a pressure nozzle for your hose or better yet from a power washer and try to loosen up the black hills.

7 Rinse the tank again after draining.

If that didn't do it you can remove the toilet and try a scrape & rinse.

If you use the above method use care not to spill or slpo the acid around. Battery Acid is very tough on the skin and will cause severe burns. Even the dillute mixture can cause problems.

best of luck to you & I hope you do not have to replace the tank as it is expensive and a pain in the @$$ to remove & re-install.
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Old 04-13-2008, 07:34 AM   #10
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That tank sits on top of the floor, and is only about 10 gallons or so in capacity.
IIRC, you take the toilet off the base it's on, and remove the base and front of the little cabinet that it is in. You can slide it out from under the sink cabinet, and haul it out the front door. If you can do all that without damaging the tank, and it doesn't leak to begin with, there's no reason you can't flush it out with a pressure washer, and reinstall it. The dump valve is mounted directly to the bottom of the tank, so you'll have to remove that before pulling the tank out. I had this exact problem with an Argosy 20 when we purchased it.
Meddle not in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy, and taste good with ketchup.
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Old 04-13-2008, 08:42 AM   #11
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1973 Argosy 22
Hendersonville , Tennessee
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Thanks for the tips everyone.
Sounds like removal and replacement may not be to difficult if that turns out to be necessary. While taking the tank out for cleaning seems to have advantages, I don't want this stuff in my yard!
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Old 04-13-2008, 09:00 AM   #12
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1972 25' Tradewind
Madison , Wisconsin
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Rake it up and bag it for the trash, it goes to a sanitary landfill; or bury it in for garden flowers.
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Old 04-13-2008, 09:03 AM   #13
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1967 30' Sovereign
1999 31' Land Yacht
Bosque Farms , New Mexico
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Tough one. We had a woman here at the park who had similar problems (self-inflicted damage, too).

I'd suggest the following:

1. Enzyme-supported water soaking, as you and others have suggested.

2. Spray-out with pressure, potentially with a pressure washer. Wear goggles and rubber gloves.

3. Sack of rough cut ice in the tank and drive around.

4. Repeat 1. - 3.

It may take a bunch of treatments in this way, but it may work. And it's somewhat less work than tank replacement.

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Old 04-13-2008, 09:12 AM   #14
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1971 21' Globetrotter
Arvada , Colorado
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When I bought my Globetrotter it had the exact same problem. I took the toilet off, hooked up the dump, and using the garden hose and a metal rod that I bent up, broke up the "cake" and finally got it all washed out. It took the better part of a whole day.

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