The Calm Before the [Next] Storm

photos by Larry Clinton | This article edited from a Floating Handyman column in the Nov/Dec 2009 Floating Times

In the Calm Before the Next Storm – Empty Your Holding Tank

January 2009: in addition to the storm damage, the Floating Homes Community suffered its longest power outage in at least 25 years. One major inconvenience during this period was the inability to flush our toilets, since our holding tanks must be emptied by electronic pumps, or they will overflow.

Plumber Michael (Pump-A-Turd) Petersen recommends that when the power goes out, homeowners should go onto the dock and turn off their water, so we can’t possibly make the mistake of flushing or running any other water until the juice goes back on. As Michael puts it, “the inconvenience of turning off your water is far less than the hassle of cleaning up after an overflow.”

However, there is another possibility. When we have some warning that an outage may occur (as we did with several mini-outages before the big January blackout of 2009), you can empty your tank in advance. Most holding tanks hold 30+ gallons of waste water, and the average flush of a low-flow toilet is less than 2 gallons. So an empty tank could accommodate a dozen flushes – or more if you’re feeling brave.

Here’s how to do it. Some newer pumps have a remote switch which allows you to turn it on manually. Otherwise, find the power cord for your holding tank’s pump. Notice that there are two cords, attached to a tandem plug (see photos above). The “A” plug goes into the socket and powers the pump, while the “B” plug powers an internal on-off device. Remove the “A” plug, separate them, and insert the “B” plug directly into the socket. That will activate the on-off device.

Let the pump run a few seconds until you hear a “whoosh” when it’s completely empty. Then reverse the procedure and insert the “A” plug back in the socket, then the “B” plug into the “female” portion of the first one. It might be a good idea to practice this procedure so you can do it smoothly when you are under pressure.

And as Mike likes to remind us, DON’T RUN THE WATER WHEN THE POWER IS OUT – DUH! – repeated here for emphasis as somehow people forget this basic premise.

This and other articles can be found on the FHA site, under Emergency Preparedness.