April 2002 — By Tim
|Part 3: Room for Improvement|
During this below-deck tour, you should also be looking for room for improvement. According to Hall, all hoses will become permeated with the smell of sewage if sewage is allowed to stand in them. You can avoid this by scrupulously instructing your guests in the proper way to flush a marine toilet (in short, very thoroughly). However, standing discharge in a hose is much harder to avoid if your installation includes dips and drops in the route. Look for ways to avoid them. Don’t forget that both intake and discharge hoses should be fitted with vented loops (not actual loops in the hose but inverted-U-shape vented fittings) to prevent the possibility of a siphon.
The routing of the vent hose running from your holding tank to the hull is also vital. Hall found out years ago that getting fresh air to the holding tank is the key to an odor-free sanitation system. "It’s not rocket science," she says. "Keep anything oxygenated, and you can keep it from stinking." From Hall I learned that there are two kinds of bacteria in sewage: aerobic, which flourish in an oxygenated environment, and anaerobic, which prosper in airless surroundings. Anaerobic bacteria generate foul gases; aerobics generate none. Whether a holding tank smells bad depends on which bacteria get the upper hand. In a well-ventilated holding tank treated with an aerobic-bacteria solution (such as K.O., originally developed by Hall, or BacTank, from Nolan Labs), the good bacteria multiply, keeping anaerobic bacteria in check and bad odors to a minimum. Thus, according to Hall, try to vent your tank with a hose that is at least 3š4 inch in diameter, make its route as direct as possible, and periodically check it with a flashlight and compressed air for obstructions of any sort.
Once every component of your system is up to your specifications–and well before you head out for your first cruise of the season–test it. Have someone operate the toilet while you go below to double-check that there are no leaks. Also before heading out for the season, if you ran nontoxic antifreeze through the system as part of your winterization, rinse and pump out the holding tank.
You may think that at this point you’re ready for a three-day weekend with a boatload of friends, but I have one final suggestion. Take your family aside and lay down the law once and for all on the correct way to use the onboard facilities. All of the above can turn to naught in an instant if the crew doesn’t use the equipment properly. Explain that, be the toilet manual or electric, you are not pumping the lever or pushing the button just to empty the bowl; whatever is being flushed has a long way to go and should be followed by a good clean rinse. Remind them that a marine toilet is designed to accept two kinds of waste only. Anything else should be disposed of elsewhere. As a reminder, and for guests, you may even consider drawing up some instructions to be mounted in plain sight in the head. If that seems embarrassing or distasteful to you, just consider the consequences of a blocked head on anchor in the middle of Labor Day weekend. Hard labor indeed, and a lesson in marine sanitation you won’t soon forget. Take it from Peggy Hall, you’re much better off being an expert in prevention.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.