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Statistics show there are about nine million recreation vehicle (RV) owners in the United States. Of those people who own an RV, most spend about four weeks travelling in their vehicles each year.
Thus, the disposal of water is a common problem for RV users. Laws and regulations that stipulate where RV users can dump their wastewater varies from state to state, which makes it difficult to know what is legal and what is illegal. A good rule of thumb is to remember that the dumping of RV wastewater in any national forest or park is illegal. Wastewater dumping in other areas is permitted under certain circumstances.
Types of RV wastewater
There are two types of wastewater that is produced by RV users and most vehicles will have different tanks for each. Grey water is any water that has been used in spaces other than the toilet and so it does not contain human waste. Black water is water that has been used in the toilet and therefore contains toxic human waste.
The regulations around dumping grey water differ from those of black water dumping. They largely revolve around the hazards that each type of water can pose to other people and the environment.
RV wastewater dumping
The concern with black water dumping is usually easily understood by most campers. However, there are also environmental risks that come with the dumping of grey water. Dumping used water that contains food or other human products can damage the environment, start to smell and attract flies to the area, which in effect brings on disease, according to the U.S. Government. Moreover, soaps and similar chemicals can damage plants and soils. It can even lead to wider issues if it gets into groundwater or streams. Because of these risks, RV users are required to dump their water only at designated sites.
“It is illegal to dump holding tanks into toilets, just as it is illegal to dump them onto the ground or into a stream,” recreation manager Eric Sandeno explained.
Those caught illegally dumping their RV grey or black water can face different fines depending on the officer and the specific law that is being broken. Most RV water dumping would fall under the larger waste dumping regulations.
Fines for those caught dumping their water when or where they shouldn’t be can range, with LA County issuing fines up to $1,000. The warning from officials came after complaints by residents that RV users were illegally dumping their water. It is not the first time that the authorities have had complaints about wastewater dumping by RV users. In 2015, residents near San Diego said illegally dumping has caused a foul stench in a community.
It is interesting to note that those who want to dump their RV black water into their home septic tank, that is permitted, according to Camper Report. Yet, for those who want to dispose of their RV water in this way need to do so within the perimeters so that you don’t cause damage to your tank. The biggest caution is not to add chemicals to the septic tank as this could disrupt the system.
Tips for handling RV grey water
Whether you are boondocking or using a campground there are some things you can do to ensure your grey water is as safe and uncontaminated as possible. These include:
- Scrape any kitchen waste into the garbage
- Wash dishes in a tub and dispose of the water on plants nearby
When dumping grey water do it slowly to allow it to be fully soaked up by the ground rather than have it pool up.
- Do not store it for more than 24 hours
The question of whether or not dumping your grey RV water is not very clear. Rules can vary from state to state on the proper disposal or dumping of each type of water. Yet, when it comes to black water, a good general rule to follow is never dump black water unless it is at a designated septic or black water site.
One of the biggest considerations is common courtesy. This means, if you are going to dump your water, it should be in a place that has no chance of it affecting other campers or any other source of clean water. This is why at campgrounds and state parks there is a specific area designated for dumping grey or black water.