Article 4 of 9 in Series: Dumping RV Holding Tanks
- Open dumping can be very harmful to the environment and is illegal almost everywhere.
- There are many options for where to dump and if you’re not sure, do an online search to find the nearest legal dumping location.
Most people would never think of dumping their black tanks out on the open ground, but you may be surprised how many people don’t know that even dumping your gray tanks on the ground is illegal almost everywhere. If caught, the fines can be pretty hefty, but finding a legal dumping location is easy enough online, even from your phone while on the road (what would we do without that phone!).
When we refer to the term “dumping,” we mean dumping gray, galley, and black tanks; they are all considered wastewater and therefore illegally dumping either type shares the same penalty. In this article, we will cover some of the typical places where you will find a dumping station and some resources for finding the nearest dumping locations online.
Legal Restrictions and Regulations on Open Dumping
Open dumping is when you allow the wastewater from either of your wastewater tanks to run out onto the ground instead of into a designated dumping station. It is important to know that all open dumping of either your black or gray tanks is prohibited on national park land and national forest property. Waste from your black or gray tank that isn’t disposed of properly can damage the environment and cause huge issues for the park. You might think gray water wouldn’t qualify, but you can still get in trouble for open dumping gray water as well. The USDA has a comprehensive article about Safe Disposal of Wastewater at Forest Service Campsites.
The best practice is to never dump your tanks unless you’re hooked up at a proper waste disposal location. There are a few exceptions to this rule, but it’s always better to assume that open dumping is illegal everywhere and find the nearest dumping station.
Where Can I Dump?
There are actually more options for dumping than you might think. Obviously many campgrounds have dumping stations, some that will even let you dump without having camped there (typically for a fee). Here is a list of some of the usual places you’ll find a dumping station:
- Travel centers and truck stops
- RV parks and campgrounds
- National parks (on occasion)
- Your home sewer cleanout
You might wonder how you can tell if a location has a dumping station. Most places with a dumping station have a brown colored sign with an arrow pointing downward, but the best way is to identify the one you want online before ever setting out on your trip (after all, sometimes cell service is spotty). There are a few things you should know about all the above listed options before you decide to just show up at one with your full RV holding tanks.
Travel Centers and Truck Stops
Most travel centers and truck stops like Pilot, Flying J, TA, and Love’s will have a dumping station attached to it, but not each location may offer this service, so be sure to look up the services at the nearest station before deciding to dump there; a simple Google search will usually tell you if that service is offered at a particular location. If the online info doesn’t show whether or not that service is offered, just call and ask! There is usually a slight cost to dump your tanks at a truck stop or travel center, but it’s MUCH lower than the fines if you’re caught open dumping.
RV Parks and Campgrounds
If you're staying at an RV park or campground, there will almost always be a place for you to dump your black and gray tanks before you leave the area. Many campgrounds and RV parks will even let you “drop in” and dump your tanks without staying at the campground. Again, they usually charge a fee, but sometimes (if you’re lucky) they will let you dump free-of-charge. As always, be sure to call ahead before you arrive as sometimes dumping is reserved only for visitors of the campground, or the dumping location can only be accessed from a campsite.
National Park Dump Stations
Campgrounds inside national parks don’t often have RV sewer hook-ups. Before you camp in a national park, be sure you know where the closest dump station is so you are not scrambling to find a dump station at the end of your trip. You can do an online search or call the local National Park Visitor Center or ranger station where they will have a full list of dumping locations inside and/or nearby the national park.
Dumping at Home
Some people don’t waste time and money with dumping stations and just return home to dump. Sometimes your home sewer cleanout is accessible enough that you could hook up your discharge hose to the home sewer cleanout and dump as you would at a dump station. However, not every home’s sewer cleanout is accessible from the outside and located in a place where the discharge hose could reach. Even if this is your situation, there are still options for dumping at home, and if you are interested in that, refer to our guide on How to Dump Your Holding Tanks at Home.
Finding local dump stations is very easy with the availability of online resources on your phone. Here are a few of the websites that will help you locate dumping stations in your area:
Google is also a great tool for finding dump stations by simply typing in “RV dump stations near me” or you can browse the Google Play store, Amazon Appstore, or Apple Appstore to find a whole list of convenient apps that will locate the nearest dump station to your current location.
Note: We are not getting paid to promote these resources. They are simply a few of the best online resources available that will help you find where to dump your tanks.
Even though you aren’t able to empty your tanks wherever you please, there really are a ton of options when it comes to dumping. Here’s a brief review of what we covered in this article:
- Open dumping is when you allow the wastewater from either of your tanks to run out onto the ground instead of into a designated dumping station; this is illegal almost everywhere.
- There are quite a few places where you can legally dump your tanks:
- Travel centers and truck stops (depending on location services)
- RV parks and campgrounds (not all have dumping services)
- National parks (certain park campgrounds)
- Your home sewer cleanout
- There are online search resources to help you find dumping locations easily and quickly.
Now that you know where to go to dump your RV holding tanks, it’s extra important to know when to dump them. In the next article, we will discuss how often you should be dumping your tanks and provide some tips on how to gauge when it’s time (a valuable skill if for some reason tank sensors are misreading).
Adopt The Unique Method
You bought your RV so you could enjoy life and spend time with family and friends. The last thing you want to do is waste precious time and money on fixing wastewater holding tank problems. Keeping your tanks in peak operating condition doesn’t have to be hard, confusing, or expensive if you follow our proven process: The Unique Method.
The Unique Method is a comprehensive tank care plan that we developed after years of conversations with real customers facing real problems. The Unique Method provides you with simple, preventative steps to stop odors, clogs, and sensor problems before they start so you can spend less time worrying about your holding tanks and more time enjoying the freedom and adventure of RVing. Try it yourself and see why thousands of campers trust their RVs with The Unique Method every day.