Fresh Water Tank - Extreme Maintenance - Escape Trailer Owners Community

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Old 03-26-2016, 03:44 PM   #1
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Join Date: Nov 2008
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Fresh Water Tank - Extreme Maintenance

This is the first of five links that address my efforts to clean, and keep clean, my 17 footer fresh water tank. It took me a few weekends to get it figured out, parts ordered and work finished and quite a lot of additional time to get it all written out and posted. I hope the write up is clear.

This is the next link

All links are in paragraphs 1 through 4 below.

My goal was to drink from the galley faucet of my 10 year old trailer. To do this I had to thoroughly clean the fresh water tank and figure out a way to easily clean and sterilize the tank with the trailer parked. It had to be easy to keep clean or else I probably wouldn’t do it. I will still do a full sterilization when I de-winterize the trailer.

We will still bring bottled water when we go camping but I want to be able to use the fresh water system without undue concern or risk.

One of the reasons I bought a trailer was to provide a life boat for the house. If we had to leave the house or do without normal utilities because of disaster, emergency or zombie attack, then I’d like to be able to fill the tank and have 20 gallons of drinking water available.

I consider my previous fresh water tank sanitizing process to be at least average. I drained it every fall and bleached it every spring. When bleaching I would partially fill it and drive around to slosh it around, then fully fill it and slosh it some more. If dry camping I’d leave the house with a full tank. I’d sanitize and flush it during the camping season if I have reason to, for example if I put water in from a source other than home. I knew that this did not prevent mold and algae growth but I thought it was the best I could do and I figured the cooties inside the tank could be kept under control. I think differently now.

While de-winterizing the trailer in February for an early camping trip, I was surprised to get debris flowing from the faucets. I flushed and sterilized the tank and after camping I removed the drain cock and took a peek inside and was somewhat shocked at how much debris and growth I had in there. Although I couldn’t see much of the tank, I could see quite a bit of what looked black or dead mold or other cooties in there. Bleaching alone was apparently not doing an adequate job.

I decided to start a new fresh water tank maintenance regimen. I know that most folks would never dream of doing the same thing and that is fine, I don’t blame them. I just want to be able to use the tank as freely as I could when it was new.
The pictures show some of what I could see inside the tank after I cut a 1 inch diameter hole in the passenger side. The lower tank surface was contaminated with black deposits. Some may have been contaminants but most appeared to be dead or black cooties.

From the outside of the tank I have previously seen interior dark spots about the size of a quarter on the lower surface, but a good bleaching seemed to make them go away. I don’t think they went away, I think they just got lighter in color. If you can see dark spots on your tank then you too probably have cooties growing in the fresh water tank. If you care to look, the drain cock is easily removed. Just be careful putting it back in as it is easily cross threaded. On my trailer it was originally installed with silicone, not Teflon tape.

I think the main problem with the 17 footer fresh water tank is that it is mounted on the outside of the trailer and makes a great hydroponic greenhouse. It is wet, humid and well lit. Cooties that get in there probably find a pretty hospitable environment.

My plan is pretty straight forward but the presentation of how it is to be done is not so easy. I will have separate links for each detail to make it easy to follow. My plan is below and appropriate links will be included as I enter those separate topics on the website.

1. First I cleaned the tank to get rid of all current contaminants and biologicals. I wanted it as clean as, or cleaner than, new. I didn’t want to remove the tank so this required cutting an access hole in the side of the tank. If I removed the tank I could have cut a much bigger hole in the top of the tank and installed a hatch. See this link for details.

2. I wanted to keep the tank clean so I figured out a way to easily clean and sanitize it when it is parked. I hope this will help keep cooties out. If I limit the amount of cooties in there, I should limit their ability to thrive. To do this I installed a Tornado Rotary Rinse system in the hole I cut in the tank and also came up with a bleach injection system that cleans the fresh water tank and hose. See these links for details.

3. While doing the first two steps it was obvious that I needed a system to remove all the water from the tank and get it as dry as practical. Even when drained with the drain cock, approximately 1.9 gallons of water remained in the tank; that was surprising. I want no water as I believe if the tank is dry than no cooties will grow. I think if the tank is almost dry than the ability of cooties to thrive will be reduced. I decided to make a vacuum system for this task. See this link for details.

4. I decided that it would be beneficial if I could figure out a way to keep light out of the tank. If the tank is dark then most (if not all) algaes and hopefully some molds and mildews will not grow. The green stuff I found in the tank clearly needed sunlight. Since paint would probably not stick for very long, I made a cloth sunscreen that is easily installed and removed. See this link for details.

Anyway, this took quite a bit of time to do and figure out but now it all works pretty well. I can remove the sunscreen in 5 minutes, fill the tank and drive away. When we get home it won’t take too long to clean, dry and cover the tank and be ready for the next trip. I figure I’ll spend 30 minutes cleaning and sanitizing the tank. Let it sit for a while, maybe overnight. Then rinse, drain and dry the tank and install the sunscreen. If I ever see or suspect contaminates I will remove the Tornado system and re-clean the interior of the tank.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Cooties.JPG (32.7 KB, 21 views)
File Type: jpg More cooties.JPG (33.6 KB, 21 views)

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Old 03-27-2016, 01:16 AM   #2
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Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: Surrey, British Columbia
Trailer: 2015 Escape 21
Posts: 422
Thanks for sharing your experience. You showed how difficult it is to remove organisms once they have colonized a surface. I shared some of my experiences with water purification systems in another thread on sanitization. I would be okay drinking water from your tank, but I don't have the energy to do this with my own Escape. Instead we bring along a 5 gal water container with tap water from home, only for drinking. I am currently sanitizing our water system and should be done tomorrow.
Just a note about growth in water. The algae (? cooties) are easy to see if you can get a look at the tank, but bacterial biofilms may be clear and less visible. Also water can a lot of bacteria and still look clear macroscopically. Many water borne bacteria can be tolerated by people with healthy immune systems, or RVs would come with water systems designed for easier sanitization (ways to completely drain water tank and maybe even dry it with airflow; ways to scrub a tank clean). Good job Thane.
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