Join Date: May 2008
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Being a retired field medic (IDMT), here is what I would do...
1. If there's an access port...
a. Open port and drain tank (pump or syphon but don't introduce contaminants)
b. Clean/scrub inside of tank with 1/10 chlorine bleach solution (no fragrance...just bleach...wear gloves, have ventilation)
c. Leave tank open to ventilate until dry or no strong bleach smell
d. Fill tank with potable water and add one teaspoon of bleach for every five gallons of water, close access port
e. Wait for one hour
f. Pump tank dry
g. Fill tank with fresh potable water
h. Wait one hour and pump tank dry
i. Your tank should now be ready to be filled and used.
2. If there is no access port...
a. Drain tank and flush until the water runs completely clear
b. Fill tank and add two teaspoons of chlorine bleach (no fragrance, just bleach) for every five gallons of water
c. Agitate tank for one hour or more (call it names, poke it with a stick, or you could take it sailing and try to heel the boat as much as possible...)
d. Drain tank
e. Fill tank with potable water
f. Wait one hour and drain tank
g. Your tank should now be ready to be used.
If you're going to winterize, you should drain all water from the tank, lines, pump, etc. When you bring your boat out in the Spring, perform an initial light shock (1tsp/5gal), flush the system, and you're ready to go.
All the above assumes you're using potable water treated with and having a level of free chlorine to flush and fill the tank each time.
By the way, the American Red Cross recommends one teaspoon of bleach per five gallons of water for emergency water treatment. This assumes there is no chlorine in the water to start with. So, if anything, I've gone light on the bleach amount. You should be able to just barely taste and smell the bleach in the end product that's safe to drink.
If you wanted to be ultra-conservative (100+% guarantee not to get sick), shock the tank (treat with a massive amount of bleach), use the tank only for washing hands/dishes/etc, and drink bottled water only.
In any case, this is just what an old retired medic would do...
Skipper, J/36 "Zero Tolerance"
PS If your water has a plastic taste to it, it might be coming from the hose you've been using and not the tank or boat plumbing.