The Tale of a Plumbing Nightmare

Only once before has this happened to me, though, way back then, it magically solved itself in the middle of the night after I gave up from hours of frantic plunging with a plunger in the bathtub that day. This time it was plugged—solid, with no magic moment of relief. The next morning, the water level was exactly the same, and when I tried again, using a plunger, the water level stayed the same.  Searching on-line, and asking plumbers what to do, lead me no closure to ridding myself of my plugged bathtub. But then today, success! Bitter sweet success, as my very first try, the plug was the thing of the past.

The problem was the pipe that goes from the bath tub into a holding tank. In R.V. terms, this part of the waste water system is called the Grey Water, and is where water from the sinks and bathtubs collects before it gets discarded into the septic system. I believe that the plug occurred where the grey water tank empties out a long 4 cm diameter pipe, before it reached the outlet valve.

My very first attempt was buying a septic snake, a flexible rod like wire that I pushed down through the bathtub, hoping to knock out the plug. However, this was a dumb idea because the snake went straight into the grey water tank, then curled up inside it—no where near the plugged section. Also during these first efforts, I bought a heavy duty toilet plunger that seemed to work, but because of the grey water tank, I could not create a strong enough vacuum to punch out the plugged section of pipe.

Then one night, after five days of living with a plugged bathtub, it dawned on me that I should try attacking the plugged pipe from the other end. Taking the septic snake, and inserting it through the outlet opening, it would only go in about 30 to 40 cm because of the three ninety degree turns in the pipe. Then I searched on-line for a septic snake that would bend better then a metal one, and found one just a few km away. When I got it home, on the first attempt, it got caught, and I broke it.

Defeated, and broken, I was not at all happy. I was still using the bathtub, but would hand empty it into the toilet with a custom made bucket I made. It was wearing thin on me. I needed this fixed—now.

At my work, there is product that you attach to the end of a garden hose, and it expands, like a rubber bladder. The idea is that you insert this bladder inside the pipe with the water hose, then inflate it with water, and it squirts a fine spray of water inside the pipe. This got me thinking. What if I could take this idea, using water pressure from a garden hose, and force the plug back into the grey water tank. I started researching this idea.

After a night of looking on-line, I clicked on something called a grey-water garden hose cap. I looked at the image, and thought—EUREKA! This is what I need. It is a flat cap, that locks onto the end of the sewer outlet, and on the face of the cap it has a garden hose attachment. The only problem was, the garden hose attachment is a male thread, used for draining water out from the system. I needed one that I could force water into it. Another quick search pointed me to using a female to female connector to the garden hose, connecting it to the sewer drainage cap, thus allowing me to force water back into the grey water system.

This was sure to work!

For a total amount of $14.67, for both the sewer cap and garden hose adapter, I had my new weapon for this cursed plug. On the first try, the plug was defeated! When I took the sewer cap off, a mighty (smelly) serge of water burst out onto the ground. The plug was officially gone. My bathtub drained!

The cause seemed to be a combination of soap and a white sandy substance that came out in chunks. I can only imagine that this build up was sediment from inside the grey water tank, and was high enough to eventually plug the drain pipe. Now, at least, I have the tools to unplug future clogs.

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