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Old 02-27-2019, 08:27 PM   #1
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Default Smell......

Just within the last few days we've started to get a smell inside our 97PW. To my nose (!) it doesn't smell like blackwater tank. It has more of a rotten food smell. RV has been cleaned since our last trip so we know there's no food lying around decomposing.I can't pinpoint a source. Close smell of toilet and sinks don't reveal any stronger smell at those points.

So I'm wondering, is the black vent valve under the bath sink a usual suspect in this situation? And, if so, is a orange box store replacement as good as any you get from camper supply outlets?

Any advice greatly appreciated.
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Old 02-27-2019, 08:28 PM   #2
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Dead rodent?
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Old 02-27-2019, 10:08 PM   #3
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I know you said you cleaned, but what happens when you crack open the fridge?

Also, a small leak that keeps an area damp can develop a "dirty socks" smell. Check around for damp areas and maybe use a desiccant or dehumidifier for a few days.

Dry p-trap on one of the sinks?
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Old 02-27-2019, 10:13 PM   #4
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Just within the last few days we've started to get a smell inside our 97PW. To my nose (!) it doesn't smell like blackwater tank. It has more of a rotten food smell. RV has been cleaned since our last trip so we know there's no food lying around decomposing.I can't pinpoint a source. Close smell of toilet and sinks don't reveal any stronger smell at those points.

So I'm wondering, is the black vent valve under the bath sink a usual suspect in this situation? And, if so, is a orange box store replacement as good as any you get from camper supply outlets?

Any advice greatly appreciated.
You could put a plastic bag over the vent valve you mention with a rubber band and see if that helps with the odor before buying another one.
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Old 02-27-2019, 10:53 PM   #5
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Great ideas (well I like avanti's the least for obvious reasons). I went out and put some water down the sinks to insure the p-traps are primed. Tomorrow morning I'll check the smell. If it's still there I'll bag the sink vent.

Thanks!
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Old 02-28-2019, 02:07 AM   #6
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I have those ventless sink traps in my B except one and that is the bathroom floor drain. They dry out if you don't shower in your bathroom much and especially in the mountains they slosh out and have to be filled periodically.

But if you have a dead rodent, in the campground we are at today, Organ Pipe Cactus NM, they advise you to keep your hood up because desert rodents don't like the light and won't nest in your engine compartment.
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Old 02-28-2019, 04:19 AM   #7
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Davydd: Nice campground. There are a few good hikes. Did the ones across the street in the Ajo mountains. And the Desert View one near the campground. This time of year and with the rains you should be seeing good wildflowers. Enjoy.
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Old 02-28-2019, 12:58 PM   #8
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General suggestion -- make sure you keep a selection of battery-operated water detectors distributed throughout your van. And keep their batteries up-to-date.

We've had enough slow-leak events over the past 4 years that I wouldn't be without these. One leak from the roof, one leak from a PEX connection that came loose, excess sweat from sudden wild temperature changes in the deep south (interior fresh water tank sweats), drips from the fridge because I forgot to empty the freezer pan after switching it off and melting the frost accumulation. And one other leak from the toilet water feed line.

The basic detectors can be bought, for instance, in a 3-pack for about 20 bucks. They work. Take a wet piece of paper towel and touch it to the detector points to test them. The detector ends have adhesive pads to stick to the floor under the cabinetry and in void spaces so they won't roll around.

Slow-leak events, if not caught early, can sometimes lead to odors like something is rotting. I'm not sure that this is the OP's issue here, but it's worth saying anyway.
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Old 03-01-2019, 04:08 AM   #9
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OK. I think that I lucked out. I poured about a cup of water down each sink last night and this morning the smell was not there. Curious. Because one of the things that I do when dumping/cleaning at home is to put a hose under pressure at the drain of each of the sinks and the shower and open the ball valve on the hose, resulting in a burst of water. I wouldn't have thought them to have been dried out but maybe the inertia of the force left the p-trap short on water. Anyways, problem seems to be solved.

So another question. If it was gas leaking up from the grey water.......that's one smelly grey water tank. Do you people clean your grey water tanks periodically and how. I use one of those hose "sticks" through the toilet to clean the black each time but have done nothing to the grey.

Thanks again for your help.
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Old 03-01-2019, 04:26 AM   #10
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I recall prior posts on really smelly gray tanks either on this or airforums. Not a problem I've had, probably due to the fact we do the "paper plates & plastic forks" routine so no food or grease down the drains. Only hand wash and bath soapy water.
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Old 03-01-2019, 01:16 PM   #11
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Yesterday, I finally got around to replacing the parts in my 05/04 190P sink faucet. When I return home from an adventure, I always fill up the fresh water tanks without any filter as I want the chlorine in the water.

I happened to think about this thread before starting. I leave the shower drain closed when not in use, but not the sink drain. I put, stuck my nose down into the sink and smelled nothing. It had been 4 months, so maybe the water dried up, or..... No smell.

I replaced the faucet parts and turned on the water several times, maybe 1/2 gallon. Stuck my nose into the sink and smelled nothing. Would I drink it? Even if the Wendlands said it was safe and ready for prime time? No. I do drink it on the road though. Hey, I'm the one that sanitizes it.

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Old 03-01-2019, 05:49 PM   #12
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.... Would I drink it? Even if the Wendlands said it was safe and ready for prime time? ....
Even if the Wendlands said it was safe. Thanks for the LOL. As in,



Opinions vary on the drink-ability of water from the fresh tank. My opinion derives from the facts that:

(1) I live in the deep south, where pathogens are endemic (we even had an instance of cholera several years back).

(2) I have completed Texas public water system operator's training (but no license until I absolutely am compelled to get one for work purposes, because the state's continuing ed, renewal and fee structures are a pain in the butt). So, I've got a bit of education on the risks and protocols.

I don't drink water from our fresh water tank unless it is less than about 72 hours old, with the tank having been flushed just before. I pretty much flush the tank about every other week when I'm using the rig heavily.

I have a 10 liter Scepter military-style poly jerry can that I keep drinking water in (it stores nicely next to my fresh water tank), and I also keep about 2 additional liters in the fridge in Nalgene. I will drink out of those over longer periods, because I'm able to control the cleanliness of those containers more closely.
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Old 03-01-2019, 05:57 PM   #13
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We use a .2micron(?) 3M/Juno marine filter that is claimed to take out most anything that will hurt you, and do drink out of the fresh tank. Taste is OK because it also has a charcoal section. We have not had any issues to this point, but of course I also know people that have been drinking tank water for decades and are still alive, so that doesn't prove much.
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Old 03-01-2019, 06:16 PM   #14
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Does anyone know of any actual evidence that drinking water from a properly maintained and sanitized RV fresh water system is any more dangerous than drinking the water that was put into the tank directly from the source?

I understand that lots of people either use filters or don't drink tank water at all. Lots of other folks (myself included) drink with wild abandon apparently without issue.

Actual data here would be great. My assumption is that RVIA has such data and would alter their recommendations if the science suggested it. Perhaps that assumption is naive, though.
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Old 03-01-2019, 06:18 PM   #15
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We have never used the fresh water tank for drinking water and always carry separate jugs for that purpose and for cooking and coffee. We do use it for washing up and doing dishes, however.

Still: back to my semi-original question: Do any of you do maintenance on your grey water tanks to clean them and, if so, how do you manage it.

Thanks.
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Old 03-01-2019, 06:23 PM   #16
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We have never used the fresh water tank for drinking water and always carry separate jugs for that purpose and for cooking and coffee. We do use it for washing up and doing dishes, however.

Still: back to my semi-original question: Do any of you do maintenance on your grey water tanks to clean them and, if so, how do you manage it.

Thanks.

Over the years I have let our tanks, both black and grey, sit for a couple weeks with tide low suds liquid laundry detergent in them. Before draining completely, I remove about 1/3 of the contents of each and go for a drive before dumping the rest. It does seem to freshen them up a bit, but the are still waste tanks, so I don't know if that matters or not.

We have never had an issue with smells in the van, though.
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Old 03-01-2019, 06:25 PM   #17
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Still: back to my semi-original question: Do any of you do maintenance on your grey water tanks to clean them and, if so, how do you manage it.
Grey tanks often smell, depending on what you put in them. Some people allege that they smell worse than black tanks. They need no regular maintenance. As in black tanks, the key is to properly maintain your plumbing, rather than trying to sanitize the tanks. A proper RV sewer system is completely sealed and will not smell at all, except at the vent on the roof -- just like the sewer stack at home.
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Old 03-02-2019, 01:04 PM   #18
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Does anyone know of any actual evidence that drinking water from a properly maintained and sanitized RV fresh water system is any more dangerous than drinking the water that was put into the tank directly from the source?....
Any such evidence would need to be placed into context and therefore would be difficult to evaluate. In other words, an apples to apples comparison would be tough to achieve.

Before we even start discussing RV tank residence times, the variables impacting initial tank water quality (at the point where it is put into the RV) include but are not limited to:
  1. The source utility itself (how it is being run both administratively and in terms of engineering; how old is it, etc.)
  2. Whether the source utility is using surface water, ground water, or a combination of the two (each has its own disinfection challenges).
  3. Disinfection methods used by the utility (which may be partially influenced by its size)
  4. Geography (south tends to have greater biological intensity)
  5. Population served by the utility (which can influence distance from the disinfection source, which can influence chlorine residuals)
  6. Season (summer = microbes multiply more quickly)
  7. Prevailing weather (turbulence can amplify surface water disinfection challenges)
  8. At what location in any given water distribution system a Class B tank was filled, because initial system residence time for the origination water will have a big impact on what happens in the Class B tank from that point forward.
  9. How the Class B tank was managed historically (our previous owner apparently filled ours with lake water, which deposited a residue which gave me several years' worth of bacteriological problems despite ongoing flushings and re-chlorinations).

It goes on and on. You can read anecdotal reports of how longer water residence times are correlated with larger number of trips to the emergency room for GI infections (e.g., here) - and that's for dynamic public water systems, not for static water residing in tanks. But beyond that kind of level of analysis, it's difficult to quantify.

Texas has regulated drinking water disinfection since 1947. Free chlorine minimum is currently set at 0.2 mg/L.
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Old 03-02-2019, 02:25 PM   #19
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Any such evidence would need to be placed into context and therefore would be difficult to evaluate. In other words, an apples to apples comparison would be tough to achieve.

Before we even start discussing RV tank residence times, the variables impacting initial tank water quality (at the point where it is put into the RV) include but are not limited to:
  1. The source utility itself (how it is being run both administratively and in terms of engineering; how old is it, etc.)
  2. Whether the source utility is using surface water, ground water, or a combination of the two (each has its own disinfection challenges).
  3. Disinfection methods used by the utility (which may be partially influenced by its size)
  4. Geography (south tends to have greater biological intensity)
  5. Population served by the utility (which can influence distance from the disinfection source, which can influence chlorine residuals)
  6. Season (summer = microbes multiply more quickly)
  7. Prevailing weather (turbulence can amplify surface water disinfection challenges)
  8. At what location in any given water distribution system a Class B tank was filled, because initial system residence time for the origination water will have a big impact on what happens in the Class B tank from that point forward.
  9. How the Class B tank was managed historically (our previous owner apparently filled ours with lake water, which deposited a residue which gave me several years' worth of bacteriological problems despite ongoing flushings and re-chlorinations).

It goes on and on. You can read anecdotal reports of how longer water residence times are correlated with larger number of trips to the emergency room for GI infections (e.g., here) - and that's for dynamic public water systems, not for static water residing in tanks. But beyond that kind of level of analysis, it's difficult to quantify.

Texas has regulated drinking water disinfection since 1947. Free chlorine minimum is currently set at 0.2 mg/L.
I tried to carefully word my query as to factor out most of the above issues. In particular:
(a) I asked whether drinking tank water is "any more dangerous than drinking the water that was put into the tank directly from the source". So, I am specifically asking about data that shows that tank storage per se adds to the risk, stipulating that the water is fine going in.
(b) I limited the query to "a properly maintained and sanitized RV fresh water system". By that I mean "strictly follows all RVIA specifications and recommendations".

I am not asking for anecdotes, opinions, or "I do/don't do it myself" reports. I have way more than I need of all three. I am hoping for real data.
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Old 03-02-2019, 02:38 PM   #20
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GallenH - your RV might have another P trap. I call it the overfill prevention for the toilet. It may have already been mentioned in this topic. On some toilets there is drain hole right where fresh water enters the bowl. Small drips would go right down the drain hole hose and prevent an overfilled bowl. The hose itself is shaped as a P trap to prevent odors from the black tank from entering the RV.

If the water in that hose evaporates or is siphoned out then the hole becomes a source of odor from the black tank.
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