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Old 05-05-2020, 07:44 AM   #1
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Grey tank odors

Fulltimer here so posting because a new problem seems to be occurring.

My grey and black tanks are emptied once per week with both filled to about 75%. Recently, as the weather has warmed, I have noticed an odor from the grey tank once its emptied that seems to linger for a day or so.

Never had this problem before? Could my vent be blocked or is it just the grey tank drying out?

Suggestions?
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Old 05-05-2020, 08:39 AM   #2
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I'd say you have a colony of anaerobic bacteria in your grey tank along with accumulated grease and gunk. Get yourself some happy Camper Natural. Use it in both tanks, it will eliminate the smell when in use and break up plant material and toilet paper (in the black tank). Then when you hit the road, fill the grey tank about half full and add a cup to a cup and a half liquid automatic dish washing detergent. Don't use regular hand dish washing soap, it suds up. Let that slosh around for a few hours on the road then dump. That will break up and dissolve the grease. Then use the Happy camper while in use again and each time you hit the road put a couple gallons of water in the tanks (both) and use an enzyme based tank cleaner, it will feed the good bugs and metabolize the organic sludge. Your tanks will be clean in no time.
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Old 05-05-2020, 08:58 AM   #3
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BB hit the nail on the head.
Thanks for the solution.
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Old 05-06-2020, 07:41 AM   #4
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Bayoubiker - Thanks for the tips. So far no problem with black tank as it has a tank washer I use after each dump. Normally I do not cook as much but with telworking over 6 weeks, I am doing much more in the galley. Once weather improves I plan to set up my outdoor kitchen......was 39 last night and raining all day today.

I am ready for warm weather!! Thanks again.
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Old 05-06-2020, 09:09 AM   #5
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I am trying to understand the issue here with the smell. Someone correct me here if I get off base. If you have water in the P-traps and the gray tank slide valve is closed, You should not smell anything. There is a water barrier from the P-trap and a positive seal at the valve. Right?

However if you have left the drain valve open for the gray or black, Then you would be able to smell the dirty, nasty drain pipe gas from the vent from top of the coach. The gas/smell will be able to come from the drain pipe through the tank and up through your vent. Close the valve??

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Old 05-06-2020, 10:08 AM   #6
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Between the P-trap and the grey tank (beneath the kitchen sink inside the cabinetry) you will find a gas-escape check-vlave (I’m forgetting the fancy name AS gives it). That valve was intended to allow any gas build-up to escape... and it does... the gas escapes into the cabinets beneath the sink ...which is directly connected to the cabin and is why you are smelling that.

I took a zip-lock bag and a rubber band and encapsulated it. Problem SOLVED.

One of the dumbest things AS “engineered” (should have vented it to outside.)

Ultimately, after the zip-lok proved it was the problem, I removed the little device and no problems.
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Old 05-06-2020, 10:16 AM   #7
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When I know Im going to be dumping my tanks, I take that opportunity to run some warm water with a little pinesol in it and clean the interior good.

Dump the used pinesol water into the sink and shower drains, rinse and dump as usual.

The bit of pinesol once a week keeps things smelling fresh.

Maggie
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Old 05-06-2020, 12:11 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Boxite View Post
Between the P-trap and the grey tank (beneath the kitchen sink inside the cabinetry) you will find a gas-escape check-vlave (Iím forgetting the fancy name AS gives it). That valve was intended to allow any gas build-up to escape... and it does... the gas escapes into the cabinets beneath the sink ...which is directly connected to the cabin and is why you are smelling that.

It's an air admittance valve and it's supposed to let air into the system, not out. If the area under the sink is stinky, then the valve has failed and needs to be replaced. These are in all RVs, TTs etc., not just Airstreams.

They are easy to replace unless it's in an Airstream, where the AS folk put them under a vanity top where you have to remove the vanity to get to it. They also seem to be sealing them to the installation pipe. These aren't supposed to have any glue on them. You are supposed to remove them with just your hand. In our 23D the bath vanity top sits on top of the valve. The one in the rear storage area seems to be glued there, I'm afraid to take it off for fear of breaking the pipe. I was able to replace the one under the kitchen sink.
https://youtu.be/E731e8asMyI
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Old 05-06-2020, 06:36 PM   #9
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Another name for it is a vacuum breaker. It's primary purpose is to prevent a vacuum from forming in the drain line that will if given the chance pull the water out of the P-traps. It also has the nice property of allowing sinks to drain nicely and rapidly without a bunch of nasty gurgling sounds.

Good points Rich!
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Old 05-06-2020, 06:55 PM   #10
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Back to batman's point on understanding the reality that even if a tank is nasty, when closed and sealed except the roof vent how is it that one experiences the foulness for the first couple days especially?

Here are is some lessons from Organic Chemistry and Sewer Plants 101:

1. No sewer system is truly fully sealed and the foul smell is a gas H2S that is quite able to permeate. It will diffuse through the P-Trap water, it will diffuse through nearly all elastic materials including plastics and rubber. It will leak out the vacuum breakers across the seals.
2. The human nose is very sensitive to H2S so it don't take much. The nose works off concentration differences so it senses a change in concentration but not long term constant exposure. A tiny little bit all the time and you don't smell it at all, a little bit more as a change and you do. H2S is also very toxic in small but modest concentrations (much larger than any rotten egg or sewer system can generate) because it's binding properties are similar to oxygen. This is also why you can smell it so easily.
3. When you drain the tank, dissolved H2S is released in larger quantities until the gunk is emerged in water again.

Can you follow the logical conclusion?

Hope this helps.
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Old 05-06-2020, 07:36 PM   #11
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Good advice, Brian.

Tanks!



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Old 05-06-2020, 10:11 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BayouBiker View Post
Back to batman's point on understanding the reality that even if a tank is nasty, when closed and sealed except the roof vent how is it that one experiences the foulness for the first couple days especially?

Here are is some lessons from Organic Chemistry and Sewer Plants 101:

1. No sewer system is truly fully sealed and the foul smell is a gas H2S that is quite able to permeate. It will diffuse through the P-Trap water, it will diffuse through nearly all elastic materials including plastics and rubber. It will leak out the vacuum breakers across the seals.
2. The human nose is very sensitive to H2S so it don't take much. The nose works off concentration differences so it senses a change in concentration but not long term constant exposure. A tiny little bit all the time and you don't smell it at all, a little bit more as a change and you do. H2S is also very toxic in small but modest concentrations (much larger than any rotten egg or sewer system can generate) because it's binding properties are similar to oxygen. This is also why you can smell it so easily.
3. When you drain the tank, dissolved H2S is released in larger quantities until the gunk is emerged in water again.

Can you follow the logical conclusion?

Hope this helps.
Thanks BayouBiker, H2S huh. I knew it was gas, but did not know it could permeate the water barrier in the P-trap. Learn something new every day. I had forgotten about the Vacuum Breaker. I did not install one when I redid my plumbing, I did not feel it necessary and have not needed it.

-Dennis
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Old 05-07-2020, 06:12 AM   #13
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In sewer plumbing its a best practice to have a vent stack or a vacuum breaker at or near every sink and tub/shower or in the pipe run just downstream to allow it to drain nice and maintain the p-trap. Toilets/urinals don't require one because they refill the bowl and trap after flushing (with the aid of a self established vacuum) or in the case of most travel trailers, use a gravity dump toilet.

edit: If lack of a breaker is a concern, just run the tap just a bit after any rapid draining of a sink that had any substantial volume of water drained, that will refill the trap if needed.
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Old 05-07-2020, 07:45 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by richw46 View Post
It's an air admittance valve and it's supposed to let air into the system, not out. If the area under the sink is stinky, then the valve has failed and needs to be replaced. These are in all RVs, TTs etc., not just Airstreams.
If you download the parts manual for your trailer, it will show you on the diagram for the waste water system where all these valves are located. In my trailer the one I had trouble with was under the wardrobe and was for the shower. If you can get to the valve, try to unscrew it. It should be just screwed on. After unscrewing it, shake it up and down to loosen the flap which may just be stuck and re-install it. This may be all you need to do.

I tried replacing mine on the road and could not find one the right size, right thread, etc. at the usual choices (Lowes, Home Depot...). Had to get one at Jackson Center while there for service. It was there I was told about just shaking it to loosen the flap. So I carry the old one as a spare. On at least one occasion since then I have removed the valve, shaken it, and replaced it and it works again.

Good luck.

Steve
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Old 05-07-2020, 08:28 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BayouBiker View Post
In sewer plumbing its a best practice to have a vent stack or a vacuum breaker at or near every sink and tub/shower or in the pipe run just downstream to allow it to drain nice and maintain the p-trap. Toilets/urinals don't require one because they refill the bowl and trap after flushing (with the aid of a self established vacuum) or in the case of most travel trailers, use a gravity dump toilet.

edit: If lack of a breaker is a concern, just run the tap just a bit after any rapid draining of a sink that had any substantial volume of water drained, that will refill the trap if needed.
I used the HepvO waterless system for the all applications Galley, tub/shower and the bathroom sink. so there is no need for a vacuum breaker. My sinks and shower drain beautifully with no gurgling and No Odors what so ever. Not to mention it's space savings. I highly recommend the HepvO



https://www.rvautoparts.com/BV1BUB11...SABEgLgz_D_BwE

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Old 05-08-2020, 11:52 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by BayouBiker View Post
Another name for it is a vacuum breaker. It's primary purpose is to prevent a vacuum from forming in the drain line that will if given the chance pull the water out of the P-traps. It also has the nice property of allowing sinks to drain nicely and rapidly without a bunch of nasty gurgling sounds.

Good points Rich!
I always thought a vacuum breaker was the device on a faucet/spigot to prevent water from being sucked back into a municipal water system and contaminating it. I remember a video (it was long before the Internet, so loooooong ago...) of a garage's concrete sink with antifreeze and rusty water in it. The spigot had a hose attached to it and the end was in the sink. The demonstration showed how, without a vacuum breaker, if the water pressure dropped in the water supply line (broken water line somewhere) it would suck that slop into the line and other peoples' homes.

I guess it's just terminology... po-TA-to, po-TAH-to
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Old 05-08-2020, 12:34 PM   #17
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The most common term for that is a backflow preventer, but yeah names seem to be a bit fluid.
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Old 05-14-2020, 08:11 PM   #18
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BayouBiker - Thanks again for your initial advice, it was right on target to solve the grey tank odor problem. But...like many problems, we solve one and another pops up.

First for the benefit of all, keep in mind this is an Airstream Landyacht motorhome vs a trailer so the plumbing is configured different. When the gray tank fills up, if not emptied, it starts to fill the shower basin which is the low point in the system. Its an easy visual if the tank monitor levels are not accurate, such as mine.

In the Class A motorhomes, all the plumbing is on the left side (drivers side) except for one thing....the washing machine. The water and drain lines feed off the shower connections and cross the mid frame of the motorhome just in front of the rear wheels.

After doing all the tank cleanout procedures, I took a long shower which I expected would fill the grey tank. Well surprise, it did not fill the tank, nothing backed up, and every drop of water went down the drain. While drying off I hear my landlord outside with his dog barking at something under the motorhome. I walk out and find the entire ground under the rv filled with soap suds...….apparently the drain line from the shower to the washer had cracked or separated allowing the overflow to spill out the bottom.

On further inspection we found duct tape apparently used by PO to stop the drain line from leaking. Guess it took my cleanout to make it break open. Needless to say I now have other indicator, besides the shower basin, to tell when the grey tank is full!! Oh well, such is another day in the life of a fulltimer…...got another repair to make!!

Thanks again for all the comments on my odor issue
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Old 05-14-2020, 08:32 PM   #19
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I live on the state line line between Louisiana and Mississippi and just across the border they call that stuff grey tape. When it's brown, they call it brown grey tape. Go figure. Either way, it's wonderful stuff. I carry it wherever I go, and strappers tape is even better.
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Old 11-22-2020, 04:14 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by batman View Post
I used the HepvO waterless system for the all applications Galley, tub/shower and the bathroom sink. so there is no need for a vacuum breaker. My sinks and shower drain beautifully with no gurgling and No Odors what so ever. Not to mention it's space savings. I highly recommend the HepvO



https://www.rvautoparts.com/BV1BUB11...SABEgLgz_D_BwE

-Dennis
Dennis,

I'm a little late to this party as I just purchased a 2019 Airstream Classic 33FB a few days ago. When I bought it, it had been parked on a level surface in strong sun for several days and I noticed no smells. But after towing it home and parking it out in front of my house, I began to notice a strong tank smell. The trailer has been parked on a slight incline with the rear end a bit lower and the passenger side in the gutter. I have not had the opportunity to drive to my RV storage facility to get my lynx levelers from my old trailer to get the new trailer level here.

I assumed at first that the issue had been that during travel, the water had sloshed out of the p-traps under the sinks, so I ran some water in them, opened the roof vents, and everything seemed better. But by the next day, the smell was back. It was very clear that the smell was coming from the kitchen area, not the bathroom. So I checked the under the sink. Unlike the bathroom vanity, which has a standard p-trap, the kitchen sink has a HepvO trap-less valve such as you linked to above. I removed it to see if it perhaps had debris in it that was keeping the inner sleeve from closing. It appeared to be closed, though it did have a bunch of gunk in it. I carefully, but thoroughly cleaned it, then tried a little experiment. I blew back through it and found that with a relatively small amount of air pressure, I could blow air backwards through the sleeve.

I reinstalled the freshly cleaned HepvO, but the smell came back. I suspect that the problem is that, since the sewer vent is on the driver's side rear of the trailer, that the gas continues to build up in the line and, since it wants to travel up hill, it is venting into the trailer through the kitchen sink. However, I also put a pretty tight stopper in the sink and filled it partly with water. I thought this would be sufficient to stop the gas, but perhaps it is coming from elsewhere in the system.

I cannot find, either in the manual or anywhere in the trailer whether or not there is an air admittance valve in the kitchen drain line. Does anyone know? But even if there is, I am not detecting the odor in under the sink, only in the main cabin near the sink. I wonder, however, if the odor is coming up through the vent for the Alde radiator behind the sink. But again, this could only be the case if there is an AAV back there or, worse, a leak in the sewer line.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Happy travels!

Paul
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