View Full Version : Fixed holding tank odor

02-16-2016, 12:12 PM
From the time I bought my boat in Fall 2011 to this past summer, I'd clear the dock any time I'd flush my toilets. I was told I needed to replace the exhaust filter (aka fart filter) for my black water tank, but my boat's builder didn't install one nor did they make the hose accessible to work on.

I finally had enough of the complaints from my dock neighbors and got brave enough to work on the issue. I carefully took the wall panneling off where I thought the house was located, which was surprisingly easy. After seeing what I was working with, I next went to Lowes and bought some supplies to build my own maintainable carbon canister. I built my own because the stupid ones the stores want you to buy cost $75 and are a 1-and-done deal.

Pictured here is what I built for around $30. All it is is hardened PVC pipe, a couple of hose barbs, a few fittings to form a chamber, and aquarium filter media with activated carbon. Since I installed this, problem has been GONE! What's more, the guest cabin no longer has a musty odor that plagued the boat for years.

I wish I did this years ago!

02-16-2016, 07:50 PM
Thanks for the picture

02-17-2016, 08:57 PM
Here's the one I put together; about $8 at Lowes and $7 at Walmart; with plenty of carbon left over for a refill.

02-18-2016, 07:59 AM
I sure appreciate these ideas!!

02-18-2016, 12:25 PM
But, wait-- You still have a holding tank? :confused:

02-18-2016, 01:40 PM
Amelia, my wife and I don't want to swim among our turds, therefore we don't dump (no pun intended) straight to the lake. 95% of my dock neighbors dump to the lake, which is why I don't tie up with them on the water when we intend to go swimming. Several of them say they have a waste treatment system before it dumps, but I know the chemicals are costly and it's not easy to maintain, so I'm sure they're not maintaining it to its optimum level.

02-19-2016, 06:40 AM
Amelia is a proponent of composting toilets - which work fine for her situation. However, a composting toilet would tank (pun intended) the resale value of a factory built houseboat.

Tony B
02-19-2016, 08:29 AM
Ever since I got my PuraSan waste treatment system, I have been a big advocate of it. It is not only eco-friendly, but also the most maintenance free system other than adding a tablet every 2 - 3 months.

The tablets cost less than $70 for 6 tablets. thats less than $12/tablet. we are full time live-aboards and we use an average of 1 tablet every 2 months. Part-timers and seasonal people should get a years worth of usage on one tablet.
To change tablets, you unscrew the top of the basket holder by hand and drop in another tablet. Screw top back on and done. From the time it takes me to find the tablets, lift the cushion off the forward settee, lift off a small board and add a new tablet and put everything back is probably under 2 mins. I only have to do it once every 2 to 3 months at a maximum cost of less than $70/year.

To me, the biggest advantage is when non-boaters are on the boat. There is a dual switch which consists of an upper and lower switch together. Press the upper switch to add more water to bowl and press both switches at once with one finger to flush.

02-19-2016, 04:03 PM
I understand the convenience of the PuraSan, but I'm a little doubtful of the eco-friendly part. Operated properly, the PuraSan kills all of the pathogens in the waste, so that would be human friendly, I suppose, and makes the discharge legal in most navigable waters. But the process nonetheless dumps the waste overboard along with any unreacted biocide, a particularly unfriendly act to critters that make their home there. The more eco-friendly method is the holding tank that is pumped to a landside treatment system.

The discharges from the PuraSan and ElectroScan are not monitored and effectiveness is dependent on proper maintenance and operation. One's neighbors in a crowded marina may be skittish, understanding how easy the systems can be manipulated. Many states (Tennessee included) do not routinely inspect waste systems, so less scrupulous boaters get away with improper discharge.

02-22-2016, 10:09 AM
2 summers ago, we tied up with several other boats for a weekend of fun on the lake. I know for a fact that I was the only boat there that had a funtional holding tank. All other boats abide to the 'don't ask, don't tell' holding tank policy. Well the following week, my wife became ill and started having a lot of pain in her lower back which culminated in a 1AM ER visit. Long story short, she got a kidney infection, which most likely was the result from swimming in nasty water. As a result of this, we no longer tie up with others that don't have a functioning holding tank.

02-22-2016, 01:10 PM
Good for you, GoVols. And shame on your "friends" who dump poop in the lake. At my home lake, there are groups who actively lobby to have the boats removed and our lake drained. Morons who flaunt the law and dump sewer into the lake are handing those groups their exhibit "A" to help their efforts to drain lakes around the country.

Sorry about your wife. I would be tempted to say that is a crappy thing that her fellow boaters did to her, but I won't.

02-22-2016, 01:31 PM
The more I thought about it, when we were considering sewage systems, the less I liked the treat-n-dump idea. In our area, the politicians decided to ban them outright. (probably to be ignored by enforcement, mostly, but we didn't care to take the chance, knowing the mental midgetry of some of our area water cops.) We knew we didn't want a nasty holding tank to fool with. And direct discharge? ICK. Utterly revolting. I don't have the numbers to say, one way or the other, how a composter would affect resale of a factory-built boat, but I am well aware how resistant to anything less than entirely conventional, no matter how expensive, delicate, and unsatisfactory 'conventional' turns out to be. Chac'un a son gout. (insert special characters as appropriate.) We are still entirely content, but still haven't thrown any wild weekend-long parties, or spent a month on the high seas. I DO know that if I were in the market for a boat of any sort, a holding tank stench would be an immediate dealbreaker.

02-24-2016, 11:34 AM

You infer that holding tank odor is a wide spread significant problem. It's not.

When it occurs it gets a lot of visibility for obvious reasons. However of the hundreds of thousands of boats in marinas all over the United States a miniscule percentage have problems. In reality corrective measures can remedy 100% of the occurrences.

There is no reason not to to accept total prevention. Peggy Hall is the go to person for correcting these events. Her book say's it all.


Tony B
02-28-2016, 06:26 AM
There is no reason not to to accept total prevention. Peggy Hall is the go to person for correcting these events. Her book say's it all.

I agree 100%
I have had many boats and some came with odors. They are fairly easily remedied. All it takes is just some routine maintenance and chemicals. Most of the routine maintenance in controlling boat odors is as simple as making sure the vent dont get clogged. The other maintenance item would be a thorough tank flushing when you pump out. An improvement to this is the filter added by by one of our members.
"Getting Rid of Boat Odors" by Peggy Hall available at http://shop.sailboatowners.com/prod.php?53615.
BTW, we started purging our fresh water tanks several years ago per Peggy's recommendation in that book. We do it twice a year and we no longer add chlorine (Chlorox) to our fresh water system.