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  #1  
Old 09-30-2008
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Contaminated Water Tank

Hello all,

I bought a new (to me) boat this spring, had a blast sailing it all summer, and now with the impending winter haul out I am looking toward 'issues' that I haven't gotten to yet. (too many fine days to be out on the water).

The water in my tank has the black slimy cruds. I found this when I first bought her (she had been sitting for a while with a near full water tank) and so just didn't do anything with that water until now.

I have read a few posts regarding a 'shock' treatment with chlorine, or using iodine, etc... but I am looking for experience and opinions regarding cleaning a badly (I think... I'm pretty new to all this... but being in health care black slimy crud 'looks' pretty bad) contaminated tank.

It is a simple system... tank to hose to "Whale" manual hand pump faucet.

Thanks in advance for the ideas.

Kevin
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Old 09-30-2008
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You want to drain out all the water. You then put 1/4 cup of plain bleach (uncented) to every 15 gallons of water. Put water in the tank to half full before adding the bleach and then top it off.

Let stand for a day. Drain it!

Put 1 quart of cider vinegar in for every 5 gallons of water. Let that stand for a few days. Everything should be germ free and taste and smell good with the next fill of water.
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Old 09-30-2008
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in addition to the above, make sure the bleach solution sits in the plumbing as well as the tank as it is more often the pipes which are more "contaminated" than the tank itself. Also, if you have cleanouts on the tank, scrub it thoroughly to remove any residue adhered to the walls and be prepared to follow the same process come springtime to commission the tank and plumbing
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Old 09-30-2008
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I would actually up the bleach to what Peggy Hall recommends, which is 1/4 cup per TEN gallons of tank capacity. Given how fouled your tank is, you'll probably want to do the following:
  1. Fill tank half way.
  2. Add bleach, 1/4 cup per ten gallons, and top off tank and open faucets until some water is coming out of each.
  3. Vigorously agitate tank for at least ten minutes (we did this by rocking the boat side to side on my friend's Cal 25).
  4. Let sit an hour.
  5. Pump out via all faucets. (You'll want to remove the diffusion screens in the faucets if they have them, as they'll normally clog up from the gunk flushing out of the tank and lines.)
  6. Repeat setps 1-5 a second time. If water coming out of faucets isn't relatively clear, do it a third time.
  7. Fill tank half way.
  8. Add bleach, 1/4 cup per ten gallons, and top off tank and open faucets until some water is coming out of each.
  9. Fill tank completely.
  10. Let stand (at least 8 hours, no more than 20).
  11. Pump out via faucets.
  12. Fill tank with fresh water and pump out.
  13. Fill tank with white vinegar. (1 qt. per five gallons).
  14. Let stand (at least 8 hours, no more than 20).
  15. Flush tanks, fill and flush again.
BTW, to prevent this from happening in the future, it is pretty important to keep the water moving in the fresh water system... pump it into the sink if you're not using it regularly... but keep fresh water coming into the tank on a regular, frequent basis. Also, let the water run in the hose for a few minutes to flush the hose before filling your fresh water tank. You'd be amazed at how much bacteria and junk can grow in the water that is just sitting in the hose and marina dock pipes when they're sitting in the sun heating up all day.

Link to Peggy Hall shock treating directions.
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Last edited by sailingdog; 09-30-2008 at 04:48 PM.
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Kevin,

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.
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Old 09-30-2008
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The problem with doing this is that it doesn't treat the insides dof the lines... and that is often where the grunge is growing.

The vinegar soak and rinse basically neutralizes any odors/taste that might be left over from the bleach shock treatment process.

Adding chlorine to the tank as a regular part of the routine isn't generally recommended, particularly if you have ALUMINUM tanks, since the chlorine does bad things to aluminum tanks if it is left in for extended periods of time on a regular basis.
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Originally Posted by J36ZT View Post
Kevin,

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.
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a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps
her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.

—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)

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Old 09-30-2008
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I've used Peggy Hall's (the head mistress) method now for a couple seasons. The tanks (two; 80 gallons total) and plumbing stay fresh all season. Easy to do; can be done over a day or two.

Mark
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I'll agree that you shouldn't leave any form of chlorine shock treatment in any tank for any amount of time except when performing the treatment. Chlorine does bad things to metals as well as rubber seals and some plastics. If the water you're putting into the tank is potable to begin with, you shouldn't need to treat it in any way provided the water is being used regularly and isn't stagnating. If you're leaving the water in the tank for more than a few days, you should either test the water for appropriate levels of free chlorine, or shock and flush the whole system...or not drink the water.

In my defense, if you read my original post it does provide for flushing of the lines and faucet... "1.f. Pump tank dry" assumes the water will be removed from the tank via the faucet since in 1.d. you "...close access port." In addition, 1.h., 2.a., 2.d., and 2.f. also assume the water from the tank is pumped out through the faucet. However, I did make the assumption there was only one faucet since Kevin stated it was a simple system and only listed one manual pump faucet. Obviously, if there are other faucets, the additional pipes/hoses and faucets also need to be considered. Vinegar might be a good treatment for removing mineral deposits such as calcium. However, I would NOT use it to mask a chlorine shock treatment. The smell and taste of chlorine is the best indicator of the level of chlorine without using a test kit. If it's masked, how will you know if the level is too high (ie leaching out of the plastics or was not properly flushed from the system)?

So, Kevin... If you decide to use a stronger concentration of bleach than I listed, please fill and empty (through the faucet) the tank several times afterward. If you're only on the boat on weekends, I would fill and empty the tank weekly...and I STILL would NOT trust drinking the water.

I'm sorry if I caused any confusion.

Skipper, J/36 "Zero Tolerance"
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Old 09-30-2008
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The vinegar isn't used to mask the odor of chlorine... it is to neutralize any lingering traces from the tank and lines. With three full fill and pump cycles, there's very little chance that the residual chlorine levels will be any greater than what is used by municipal water treatment facilities.
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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps
her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.

—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)

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Old 09-30-2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by skyellab View Post
You want to drain out all the water. You then put 1/4 cup of plain bleach (uncented) to every 15 gallons of water. Put water in the tank to half full before adding the bleach and then top it off.

Let stand for a day. Drain it!

Put 1 quart of cider vinegar in for every 5 gallons of water. Let that stand for a few days. Everything should be germ free and taste and smell good with the next fill of water.

As a final touch, add "Jack Daniel's" in it: one bottle per gallon of water to fill the tank completely. Let it stand for one day - then drink it.

Last edited by Drylander; 09-30-2008 at 08:37 PM.
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