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Rust in the water coming from integral tank - but no apparent access to get into tank


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Hi all,

 

I'm a few weeks into living aboard and currently doing a test to see how long my water lasts me - I topped up full about 8-10 days ago, and have since been using water 'normally' to see how long it takes me to get through a tank, as I don't know the size of what I have.

 

I'm now seeing what I assume is rust flakes in the toilet bowl (very tiny particles), but strangely, not in the kitchen sink. I assumed I must be getting to the end of my water and it was dredging up whatever grossness is at the bottom of the tank, but I can't be sure. Unfortunately I have an integral tank that appears to have no way to access it in order to clean/rust treat it.

 

Is there anything I could drop into the tank (tablets or something?) to treat this? Or should I bet getting a hole cut into the bow to access the water tank? There's a small inspection hatch (maybe 20cm x 10cm) but it's bolted shut and looks like its been painted over about 4 times/not opened in a long time. Definitely not big enough to properly get in and scrape out and treat the inside of the tank.

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Milton fluid or ordinary THIN bleach is often used to clean the tank and pipes. You don't need much, add to the tank and run water to every tap or outlet and leave for few hours then empty tank and flush through  a couple of times. 

 

I do this every couple of years (not liveaboard). 

 

Personally I'd get that inspection hatch open and have a look inside. On ours I used a spare bilge pump to empty via the hatch which was much quicker than using the taps and normal pump. Then used a wet and dry vac to get all the gunge and Rust at the bottom of the tank.  

Slightly depends on what you see at this point but at.least that would be.my starting point.

Edited by jonathanA
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I second that. If you have a mild steel integral tank it will need regular maintenance; ie emptying, cleaning out, rust treating and tank repainting. This is a nasty, messy job but not too bad once you get on top of it. Do you have a filter on your kitchen tap by any chance? 

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Petrol lighter fluid (like Ronsonol)  is very penetrating and  excellent stuff to use for freeing rusted bolts. You may need to scrape the paint away first to bare metal to let the liquid penetrate by capilliary action and then see-saw the spanner to and fro to help pump the liquid down the screw thread. 

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8 hours ago, MrsM said:

I second that. If you have a mild steel integral tank it will need regular maintenance; ie emptying, cleaning out, rust treating and tank repainting. This is a nasty, messy job but not too bad once you get on top of it. Do you have a filter on your kitchen tap by any chance? 

 

who was the culprit shell builder who made a tank access panel only 8" x 4" ?  name and shame please.

 

next winter one of the essential jobs will be to hire a welder for a day and make a proper access hatch big enough for an average human to enter head first (think shoulder-width) but please secure the ankles 'cos if you've slipped in you cannot reverse out - unless you turn the boat upside down of course.

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9 hours ago, MrsM said:

I second that. If you have a mild steel integral tank it will need regular maintenance; ie emptying, cleaning out, rust treating and tank repainting. This is a nasty, messy job but not too bad once you get on top of it. Do you have a filter on your kitchen tap by any chance? 

Sadly it seems like it might be impossible to access with my current hatch (too small, looks like it would need to be cut open)

 

This is what I'm working with:IMG_2142.jpg.add4c10740aa11005be4fa641926975a.jpg

 

 

IMG_2143.jpg

27 minutes ago, Murflynn said:

 

who was the culprit shell builder who made a tank access panel only 8" x 4" ?  name and shame please.

 

next winter one of the essential jobs will be to hire a welder for a day and make a proper access hatch big enough for an average human to enter head first (think shoulder-width) but please secure the ankles 'cos if you've slipped in you cannot reverse out - unless you turn the boat upside down of course.

Can't remember the name of him, but it wasn't one of the big names.

 

I think this might end up being the only way....

 

In the bow entrance, below the front step (in the cabin) is a red screw tap thing to turn off the water to the rest of the boat - any chance there could be a vertical access panel behind the wall part here, or is the access hatch ALWAYS on the top of the tank? (I imagine a vertical access panel would be risky for leaks, but you never know...)

 

Might have to be some purifying tablets for now until I can think of the appropriate long term solution...

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9 hours ago, MrsM said:

 If you have a mild steel integral tank it will need regular maintenance; ie emptying, cleaning out, rust treating and tank repainting.

There has been the odd incidence where an integral tank that has not been maintained has converted itself to an endless water supply that never needs topping up, having rusted through to the canal.

  • Greenie 1
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That deck is horrid and needs a bare metal repaint. The hatch is also horrid as it sits proud rather than flush. Do the deck and get a new bigger hatch fitted at the same time, as big as you can manage. Ideally this should be flush which involves welding a flange under the deck which is a bit tricky.

 

Very unlikely to have an access hatch on the side of the tank as its a big potential leak.

 

The welding will likely be quicker than the preparation and painting.

 

..............Dave

 

 

  • Greenie 1
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2 hours ago, dmr said:

That deck is horrid and needs a bare metal repaint. The hatch is also horrid as it sits proud rather than flush. Do the deck and get a new bigger hatch fitted at the same time, as big as you can manage. Ideally this should be flush which involves welding a flange under the deck which is a bit tricky.

 

Very unlikely to have an access hatch on the side of the tank as its a big potential leak.

 

The welding will likely be quicker than the preparation and painting.

 

..............Dave

 

 

Yeah, defintiely needs attention. What do you think - scrape it all back as much as possible, apply a rust converter, then undercoat, then paint?

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An angle grinder fitted with a rotary wire brush is excellent for removing that sort of rust. Heavy leather gauntlets and eye protection are advisable in case of flying loose wire strands. 

Edited by Ronaldo47
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47 minutes ago, thingsweregood said:

Yeah, defintiely needs attention. What do you think - scrape it all back as much as possible, apply a rust converter, then undercoat, then paint?

 

It depends on how long you plan to keep the boat etc etc

 

I took mine almost to clean steel with a wire cup brush in an angle grinder, then two coats of surface tolerant epoxy primer, then whatever paint and colour you fancy as a top coat.

It has lasted really well, just needs occasional local repairs after big impacts like dropping the windlass on it from a height.

 

If you can get very close to clean steel then primer is preferable to rust converter.

 

.............Dave

 

 

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Hello, I've read the suggestion to  use Milton or thin bleach in water tanks several times before and always wondered how you would flush it through without (dilute) bleach ending up in the cut?  

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10 minutes ago, Chris T said:

Hello, I've read the suggestion to  use Milton or thin bleach in water tanks several times before and always wondered how you would flush it through without (dilute) bleach ending up in the cut?  

Dilution factor renders it harmless.

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45 minutes ago, Chris T said:

Hello, I've read the suggestion to  use Milton or thin bleach in water tanks several times before and always wondered how you would flush it through without (dilute) bleach ending up in the cut?  

 

Bleach might kill any bacteria but it won't fix the rust or be a substitute for tank maintenance.

We have not bleached our tank in 12 years and no problems yet. Sometimes get a bit of a headache but I think that's the beer.

 

..............Dave

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5 hours ago, Tracy D'arth said:

Leave that foredeck floor to rust a bit longer and you will have all the access that you need ! 

 

eh?   I see lots of flaking paint but no sign of serious rust - except the hatch plate that is a load of rubbish.

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Ahhh - so the rust (I think it's rust?!) is now coming out the kitchen tap - hot water comes out clear, but cold water has very clearly got some brownish/redish sediment in it (see pics below).

 

Some questions:

- Is this for sure rust?

- Does that just mean my tank is almost empty and its starting to pick up sludge from the bottom?

- If so, am I better off keeping the tank topped up to avoid this as much as possible until I can get the hatch enlarged and the inside of the tank cleaned?

- If the rusty water isn't coming out the hot water, does that mean it's all collecting in my calorfier? I can't imagine that is good for it....

- I'm not drinking the tap water, but I am using it for cooking/showering/washing up. Is there any risk to my health doing this?

 

Ah, what a drama.

 

IMG_2154.jpg.4c0b2598f69283dd5cd44ea43c423dd0.jpgIMG_2155.jpg.e696e6d138d699bd48fb1a2c98fd8ede.jpg

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You will shortly find that all of your water flow stops.

Your water filter (near your pump) will be solid with rust, and maybe, you will find that once you have cleared that you still get no water flow. It happend to us.

 

What I eventually found was that the rust had got sucked into the short length of pipe between the tank and the stop-tap and had actually blocked the hole / spigot coming out of the tank. Disconnected all of the piping but couldn't clear it.

 

In the end I had to fit the hosepipe to the spigot coming out of the tank, turn the hose up to 'full', wait for the pressure to build up and 'blow' the rust back into the tank.

 

Then sold the boat - it was easier than trying to clean out the tank.

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4 minutes ago, Alan de Enfield said:

You will shortly find that all of your water flow stops.

Your water filter (near your pump) will be solid with rust, and maybe, you will find that once you have cleared that you still get no water flow. It happend to us.

 

What I eventually found was that the rust had got sucked into the short length of pipe between the tank and the stop-tap and had actually blocked the hole / spigot coming out of the tank. Disconnected all of the piping but couldn't clear it.

 

In the end I had to fit the hosepipe to the spigot coming out of the tank, turn the hose up to 'full', wait for the pressure to build up and 'blow' the rust back into the tank.

 

Then sold the boat - it was easier than trying to clean out the tank.

Gahhhh, what a nightmare. I hope you're joking about selling the boat, because I just bought this one and as I'm living aboard I need to make it work somehow!

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Just now, thingsweregood said:

I hope you're joking about selling the boat,

 

Nope, I  wasn't prepared to cut open the deck and do all the work that you will be doing so I sold it to a couple who took it down to London and used it as a Liveaboard.

It was a leisure boat for us and easy to replace.

 

Advertised it on the forum just before Christmas, they came to see it between Christmas and New Year and paid up in full. Due to flooding it was about 2 months before they could set off.

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1 hour ago, Murflynn said:

 

eh?   I see lots of flaking paint but no sign of serious rust - except the hatch plate that is a load of rubbish.

 

Almost certainly rust but as you are running your tank down the water is probably sloping about as you move about so it has stirred up the rest particles that are in the bottom of the tank.

 

As the particles are heavier than water they have probably settled out into the bottom of the calorifier so the hot taps are, at the moment, clear.

I suspect that if you filled the tank the problem will get much reduced after allowing time for the rust you stir up when filling to settle out. That does not mean its not a good idea to plan to get the tank sorted, but it may buy you a bit of time.

 

Alan is right about the potential for blocking the filter and maybe the pipe, but I would only be worrying about that possibility if the flow from the taps was reducing.

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27 minutes ago, Tony Brooks said:

 

Almost certainly rust but as you are running your tank down the water is probably sloping about as you move about so it has stirred up the rest particles that are in the bottom of the tank.

 

As the particles are heavier than water they have probably settled out into the bottom of the calorifier so the hot taps are, at the moment, clear.

I suspect that if you filled the tank the problem will get much reduced after allowing time for the rust you stir up when filling to settle out. That does not mean its not a good idea to plan to get the tank sorted, but it may buy you a bit of time.

 

Alan is right about the potential for blocking the filter and maybe the pipe, but I would only be worrying about that possibility if the flow from the taps was reducing.

Thank you, thank you.

 

I'm learning a lot today! Ok, so first port of call is to fill it up asap, and then decide to tackle the fore deck hatch enlargement and repainting etc.

 

So, am I correct in assuming I should NOT be running the rust through the taps if at all possible, so that there's less risk of them clogging the filter? I haven't noriced a reduction in water flow currently.

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In the short term I would scrape/wire brush around the hatch lid (so you can at least tape/silicon etc it back on temporary) and try to remove those few bolts. They will probably shear to save the hassle of cutting the heads off.

You can then at least empty/vac crud out the tank and assess it.

Baxters will fabricate you a decent hatch and there is also a mobile welder not far from you-

 

https://scottweldingfabrication.com/

Edited by PaulJ
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10 minutes ago, thingsweregood said:

Thank you, thank you.

 

I'm learning a lot today! Ok, so first port of call is to fill it up asap, and then decide to tackle the fore deck hatch enlargement and repainting etc.

 

So, am I correct in assuming I should NOT be running the rust through the taps if at all possible, so that there's less risk of them clogging the filter? I haven't noriced a reduction in water flow currently.

 

In an ideal world you don't want rust through the taps but all you have is rust dust that has passed through the strainer (course mesh filter) that you should have by the pump but its  rust flakes that will do any blocking. You can normally unscrew the two halves of the strainer to clean it if required.

 

Personally, I don't think drinking or eating a small amount of iron oxide will do you any harm at all.

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