Septic Line Replacement Project.
07 June 2016 | Herrington Harbour South, Friendship MD
Success!...the rear head septic system is complete!
General Project description: We wanted to expand the versatility of our septic setup in our master head. We kept the Marine Elegance head and Lectrsan automatic controls but added a 15 gal holding tank and a snazzy valve setup to do six things with our black water:
1. Flush to MSD-I
2. Flush to holding tank
3. Flush to overboard
4. Empty tank to pump out
5. Empty tank to MSD-I
6. Empty tank to overboard
Why so many functions?...
A. We live aboard in an NDZ so pump out is our routine.
B. We cruise - in some anchorages (national park/conservation areas) you must hold your waste until you are legal to process (MSD-I or dump). The options we now have permit us to store black-water until we hit a pump station or get to a legal MSD-I or overboard effluent discharge place.
What we did: We knew we needed to replace the old white ribbed septic hose - yes...the wipe test told us the hoses were permeated and we had a "funk" smell in the head area. Since we were replacing hose (with the high end non-permeable stuff) we added an aluminum holding tank (didn't have one previously in this head), an inline macerator from the tank to the MSD-I or overboard and the appropriate switches, Y-valves, pump out port (and vent) and tank level indicators.
Musings on the project:
1. Its a shitty job but someone has to do it! I procrastinated on this project for nearly 9 months! Just didn't want to crack the old lines open...but some preparation made it less offensive:
a. Vinegar is your friend: We flushed the septic lines with vinegar as it was the best "natural" cleaner - which beat down the smell once I cracked the lines open.
b. Slow flushing means blockage: Our flow was low (on flush)...when I cracked the lines open, every place where a hose met an elbow, "T" or union was calcified and nearly clogged with hard deposits (my guess is that the system had not been cleaned in 10 years). Regular (routine) flushing of the system with a vinegar bath will be the norm for us (monthly)...and let the vinegar sit in the lines for about an hour to loosen deposits.
c. Clamps need maintenance: I found about 1 in 3 clamps fell apart the minute I turned the screw with a driver - corrosion from moisture and humidity will even eat up stainless over time. All of our new system is double clamped now!
d. Less fittings - is better: Your hoses should be as straight and continuous as possible (which requires planning) to reduce potential for blockage/deposit build up.
e. Y-valves and Joker valves have the highest potential to clog. Exercise valves regularly.
2. Design is everything! Think the project thru. We were adding diversity and flexibility to our system with the functions listed above. Space is at a premium and yes - you have to be somewhat of a contortionist to work in the tight spaces where septic systems go (to be out of sight-out of mind). I needed to design our system so that I would have the functionality I wanted but it has to be easy for the Admiral to operate (this is a BIG one)! I labeled all valves/hoses with their function so that when she wants to send waste to where it is intended to go - she can do it without asking me how - just follow the numbers Honey...The system default (always set on...) Valve #1 on Lectrasan, Valve #2 on Overboard, Valve #3 on Overboard.
1. Flush to Lectrasan: Valve #1 to Lectrasan.
2. Flush to overboard: Valve #1 to overboard.
3. Flush to tank: Valve #2 to "Tank." (default is overboard)
4. Pump out the boat: Valve #3 to pump out.
5. Empty tank at sea (Inside 3 miles): Valve # 1 to Lectrasan, Valve #3 to overboard, Turn on the macerator pump (3 minutes).
6. Empty tank at sea (Outside 3 miles): Valve #1 to Overboard, Valve #3 to overboard. Turn on the macerator pump (3 minutes).
***Always reset the system to default (above).
3. Clean "everything" while you have the system open: You only get to do this once!...and I mean clean everything!...scrape it, wash it, replace seals on the back of the head (joker, fresh/sea-water intakes, pump seals, bearing seals (a rebuild kit is advised for your respective toilet)...and clean the MSD-1 unit you may have!...pull it out; disassemble it and clean/inspect every part and replace with new seals...YOU DON'T WANT to HAVE TO DO THIS AGAIN!!!
4. Test with water first: Once its all put back together - test with LOTS of water! Fill the system (MSD-1, Tank, Lines...all of it) with water and let it sit for 24 hours. Check for leaks, drips, moisture (including the elbow at the vented loop) before you close up and operate with human waste! I found that my vented loop breather cap seal needed replacing when I flushed/filled and water squirted out the top of the loop (better than dealing with shitty water)!
5. Test (with water) at the pump out station before committing to using the system with actual waste! Vacuum from the pumping process will stress any seal or union in the tank circuit so pump and fill several times with water and check for leaks/drips/seepage!
I was lucky with this project. Nary a leak was found. Prior planning prevents piss poor performance (or shitty performance) in this case!
Next project: The forward head septic hose replacement, addition of a new MSD-1 and a larger holding tank!