Tips for Odor Prevention in a Houseboat’s Holding Tank

Typically, houseboats with toilets have holding tanks installed for temporary storage of sewage until they reach a vessel pumpout facility. Discharging overboard while in the ocean is illegal and could impose heavy fines and penalties.

Holding tanks are commonly made of plastic, aluminum, or stainless steel materials. The size of each can range to accommodate 5 gallons to 100 gallons or more. There are commercially available tanks but you can also have them custom-made. These tanks are valuable for houseboats.

However, it can be a challenge to maintain your houseboat odor-free when it has a holding tank.

Here are some simple things to keep in mind in order to prevent odor in your houseboat.

1. Proper ventilation is key in any holding tank system.

In holding tanks, there are two types of bacteria that are present. These are aerobic and anaerobic bacteria.  Aerobic bacteria break down organic matter and creates odorless byproduct in the form of carbon dioxide. These bacteria require oxygen to survive and reproduce. So for you to keep these guys, make sure that the vent lines don’t have low points as these will block air from flowing.  Anaerobic bacteria on the other hand thrive in an environment with no oxygen. The byproduct they create are foul smelling gases such as sulfur monoxide and sulfur dioxide.

2. As much as possible, avoid using bleach, detergents and other cleaning supplies or odor masking agents in the holding tank.

It may sound strange but using these type of products slows the growth or eliminate the aerobic bacteria. When using chemicals, see to it that it has no formaldehyde and bromine contents which also harm aerobic bacteria.

3. Consider using bacterial products as holding tank treatment.

Bacterial products accelerate the digestion of organic materials in the wastes. These toxic-free products also neutralize odors.

4. Don’t let your tanks be full. Discharge your tanks when you can

You don’t want your tanks to overflow filling the air breather or leak back up in the toilets. Pumping out as often as possible is ideal.

5. Have a proper and regular maintenance of your sanitation system.

In any system, preventive maintenance is still better and costs less than repairs. Change the seals and hoses in your sanitation system. Make sure to attend to any problem as soon as you spot it.
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