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Old 08-21-2021, 09:18 PM   #1
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New member, 1st time 5w owner, epic gray tank problem. HELP!

The short: gray tank hasn't drained in God knows how long. Just leaks over the top underneath the trailer. No back-ups in the trailer. Always shows 1/4 to 1/2 full. Oh....and it STINKS HELLA BAD. Like sewer/black water bad.

The long: Got totally ripped off/taken advantage of/stuck in the middle of some unnecessary CRAP in getting this trailer. It's a fixer, habitable, but has one nasty problem.

God, I was just STUCK and I really didn't have any other choices at the moment. I lost my home of 13 years, spent months in motels with my kitties, struggled hard to find a place to move into for a variety of reasons. Found this trailer for cheap, habitable but needing SERIOUS cleaning (5 smokers lived in it for years and it's apparent nobody cleaned. Anything.) and some repairs. Other than a quick attack on the kitchen, I'd been doing dirty living' and hating myself so much while progressing through cleaning. But time hasn't been on my side and I'd been bereft of a CRAPLOAD of problems since before COVID even entered the radar.

At first the one big thing I noticed off the bat when doing the walkthrough with the owner....the place smelled like sewage was leaking underneath. Ugh. The explanation was that some guy did some poor repair work on the trailer. Being handy, I figured that beggars couldn't be choosers. My first two nights were awful. Since then I had to progress with a variety of things in particular order before I'd even begin to address the black water situation (as is now the weather is starting to cool off). Yeah. Months. Slowly but surely, the place is making a turnaround. Had to rip out the booth and the cushions as well as the foldout-sofa as all were broken and thick with cig smoke. Those were promptly discarded along with a nasty queen mattress. That was were I started.

Where I'm at is this: I determined the black water tank and lines are fine, no leaks. This....NASTINESS....is from the GRAY WATER TANK! It's foul. Everyone thought it was the black line. And....lord knows how many YEARS anyone addressed it. Seriously. There is no history on the matter. I crawled under and saw where the tank was leaking into he insulation underneath and had done some for years. It was sagging like a belly of a great beast. Like Luke Skywalker, I started to slit that Tauntaun. That was the sorriest freakin' day of my week. I managed to cut out all the bad insulation so the the undercarriage could dry out. The bad insulation was....gray. With...stuff. And it was...slimy. After that expose I determined that the tank has quite a bit of rust around but seems to be holding up good. However, there is leakage coming from what appears the top of the tank (or?). It stinks, of course. I punch the bottom of the tank and of course it feels pretty full.

The issue is: Pulling the gray water tank valve out (open) produces nothing. The sliding action of the valve SEEMS to feel "normal" but that doesn't really mean to an inexperienced RV'er like me. The blade could have come off the end of the rod. I've tried tapping gently with a hammer and other areas where a clog could be. I've been pouring boiling hot water and dish soap down to help perhaps break this up some. Tomorrow, I plan on taking a plumber's auger into the drain pipe outside to see if it goes past the valve and if it does, the clog is somewhere tank-side.


Any ideas as to what I should try or look for?
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Old 08-21-2021, 09:29 PM   #2
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Welcome, and sorry your first post is a problem. If you put an auger in the grey tank as you are suggesting, be prepared for a deluge if you dislodge the plug. Grey tanks can put off a foul odor, especially of people put food particles down the sink. Can't help you with the leak, unless the tank is just completely full, and water is coming out of a vent on top. Good luck.
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Old 08-21-2021, 09:39 PM   #3
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Thanks, Harry. If Iím correct, thatís the tank seeping out of the vent at top.


Iím gonna go with the distinct possibility people dumped whatever into the kitchen sink.

I pretty much am prepared for the deluge. I just want this damn thing drained!
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Old 08-21-2021, 09:46 PM   #4
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You better have your sewer drain hose in one hand ready to go if something breaks loose, or septic service truck.
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Old 08-21-2021, 10:05 PM   #5
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Sounds as if you have access to the grey tank (removed all that nasty insulation)
Then you should have access to the grey tank dump valve

Vise grips on end of shaft and pull the blade open

There are no vents on top of tank....vent line from top of tank to roof yes
If leaking from top of tank then split in tank OR mfg used a grommet/gasket to seal vent line and drain lines into to tank
Liquids can leak past those gaskets when tank is overfilled

Tank levels gauges are NOT accurate/reliable----especially when you have nasty liquids leaking from top area and a sagging waste tank

Grey IS nastier ten black
Black is poop/pee
Grey....food particles rotting, oils/greases going rancid, slough skin cells decaying, hair coagulating etc
NASTY --------

Could be a clog but more likely the dump valve is NOT opening

Best wishes!!
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Old 08-21-2021, 10:10 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Garyp4951 View Post
or septic service truck.

Wait....a septic truck has the oomph to schlork out tanks thick full of crap, right? Hmmmm....and from what I've heard, they're not expensive. Bonus is some of these guys have seen just about everything out there. My problem? I'm literally in BFE, situated in a new RV park that's sparsely populated and my pickup doesn't pull my trailer (I had to hire a guy to haul me 123 miles from the original RV park to here after putting up with some royal BS there).

Need to do some checking around.
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Old 08-21-2021, 10:25 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Old-Biscuit View Post
Sounds as if you have access to the grey tank (removed all that nasty insulation)
Then you should have access to the grey tank dump valve

Vise grips on end of shaft and pull the blade open

There are no vents on top of tank....vent line from top of tank to roof yes
If leaking from top of tank then split in tank OR mfg used a grommet/gasket to seal vent line and drain lines into to tank
Liquids can leak past those gaskets when tank is overfilled

Tank levels gauges are NOT accurate/reliable----especially when you have nasty liquids leaking from top area and a sagging waste tank

Grey IS nastier ten black
Black is poop/pee
Grey....food particles rotting, oils/greases going rancid, slough skin cells decaying, hair coagulating etc
NASTY --------

Could be a clog but more likely the dump valve is NOT opening

Best wishes!!
Oh, the gray and black tank dump valves, fortunately for me, are right there amidships less than a forearm's reach in. I've slid the dump valve back and forth many times with nothing produced. The handle at the end is intact and seems to operate the rod back and forth to what would appear to be the proper travel for such a valve blade. There appears to be nominal leakage from the valve block itself, which would indicate fluid under some pressure. So this could all support the likelihood of a non-functioning valve. Tomorrow just advancing the snake to that point (approx. only 6'!) will be telling. If the thing clunks I just need to figure out how to open that valve.

Yeah, totally understand the nastiness of gray water sludge. Retired career Paramedic/FF with a little bit of microbiology under my belt to give me nightmares.
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Old 08-21-2021, 10:27 PM   #8
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Septic Truck service can suck black tank out thru toilet but there is not direct opening to grey tank except thru the dump line/drain valve

Plus if septic truck operator doesn't do RVs routinely then they may not know that their vacuum on truck can Collapse a waste tank if too high vacuum is used and waste tank vent is obstructed
*vacuum is usually 20"Hg for sucking out septic tanks-----just 4-5"Hg is needed for a waste tank as it gravity feds dump line vs sucking up from septic tank buried in ground

An experienced operator would run vacuum pump at idle and slowly increase OR have a dump box that they suck from as waste tank drains into it

Clogged line......verify dump valve actually opens before hooking up a vacuum line to suck contents out

IF Valve IS open........then could try backflushing using an adapter on end of dump line with garden hose connection that way the sewer hose can be connected while backflushing with water pressure

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Old 08-21-2021, 10:36 PM   #9
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Once you get the tank opened up and drained you might want to look into Happy Camper Extreme. I've been using their product for years and it works. No smells. Water is the key to keeping tanks clean, but this may help you get them clean. https://www.happycampersworld.com/pr...treme-cleaner/
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Old 08-22-2021, 07:40 AM   #10
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Sure sorry to hear about your troubles.
The backflushing adapter (mentioned by Old Biscuit is the first thing I would try once I confirmed the valve is open. Would try this before the auger or snake since the sewer hose is connected for when you do break through the clog.

You should be able to find one fairly easy, some Wal Mart stores have them. Rhino Blaster is a brand name of one. This will be a handy item have in future as well. I use mine occasionally as a preventative.

One recommendation in using is to monitor it and use in short bursts of about a minute or so to make sure the water youíre blasting in is in fact draining back out. It is possible that the blast water could get in, but isnít draining back out past the blockage, and you donít want to make the problem worse by inadvertently continuing to fill the tank from the bottom up and cause more leaking at the vent pipe connection or rupture the tank.

Best wishes for resolution.
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Old 08-25-2021, 10:57 AM   #11
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Sorry to hear about your problems! Seems like a clog to me as well, and plenty of people have come with some really good methods. I just wanted to chime in to tell you preventive maintenance on the grays is a good idea. I tend to fill all tanks at least twice a month so I can flush them. You can also use the enzyme tabs you use in the toilet for the gray tanks as well. One approach we've taken during the winter is to put some hot water down all tanks to help break up clumps. Good luck!
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Old 09-05-2021, 08:13 PM   #12
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gray tank problem

It sounds to me that the valve is not opening but you will no that when you go in with the auger. If it is a clog, that could be messy but has to be done. Old Biscuit gave me a tip about a year ago that has worked flawlessly since. My 5er has three waste tanks. Two gray and one black. I have three pull handles with cables running to each tank. One never shut off all the way the other two always hard to pull. If your tanks are all mounted at the same level under the camper and your shower-bath, kitchen galley and sewage tanks all are vented with Ptraps, just let all three valves open and install a Valterra shutoff on your outlet In my camper all three tanks were 40 gallons which gives a total of 120 gallons of storage. My capacity gauges always read 2\3 to full and I installed a water flow meter on the water supply and dump at 100 gallons in. Works like a charm and you never have to worry about the gate valves or cables breaking. Best tip I ever got !!!! Lots of water in all of the waste tanks is the key to staying away from clogs Hope this helps All tanks must be mounted at the same level and the water-waste will equalize between the tanks.
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