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California's SB-317 - What It Means For You

March 17, 2020

CA SB-317 Compliance - What does it mean for RVers and Campgrounds?

Key Points:

    • California’s SB-317 bill bans the use of certain chemicals in RV holding tank treatments and also prevents stores from selling treatments containing restricted chemicals.
    • The bill also requires campgrounds to enforce rules that ban people from using treatments if their campground utilizes a septic system, onsite wastewater treatment system, or subsurface disposal system to dispose of recreational vehicle wastewater.
    • The most notable chemicals that the bill bans is formaldehyde and bronopol. Formaldehyde and bronopol will kill beneficial bacteria in holding tanks and septic systems, causing the systems to malfunction or discharge dangerous, untreated water into the environment. Ultimately, this can lead to the pollution of the groundwater. 
    • If you have been following The Unique Method and using a high-quality, bacteria-based RV holding tank treatment, you should already be in compliance with SB-317. 
    • Campgrounds or facilities with dump stations are also required under the bill to report any dumping of RV holding tanks to the appropriate authorities and to post conspicuous signs, declaring that products containing these restricted chemicals is a violation of the law. You can download our free SB-317 compliant sign here to use at your site.

SB-317: To many people, especially those who are new to RVing, that might just be a nondescript, meaningless number code for something they know nothing about. To others—particularly avid RVers in California—though, SB-317 changes a whole lot about the way they go about RVing! In this article, we’ll break down what California’s SB-317 bill is and what it means for you as an RVer!

What is California’s SB-317 Bill?

Let’s just be honest—legal writing can be insanely dense and complicated! Most people don’t want to wade through a legal bill. This is particularly true if you've just purchased your first RV, and you're just trying to wrap your head around everything there is to know about Rving. All the same, regardless of whether you're new to RVing or not, you probably still want to understand the basics of what the SB-317 bill means for you! Well, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to break down and summarize SB-317—so you don’t have to!

At its most basic level, California’s SB-317 bill bans the use of certain toxic chemicals in RV holding tank treatments. The bill comes on the heels of concerns about polluting the groundwater in California because of toxic chemicals that make their way into the groundwater via septic systems at RV campgrounds, RV parks, or other dumping sites. In addition, there are several cases in which RV campgrounds’ septic systems experienced complete failure because of waste filled with toxic chemicals. All in all, the bill seeks to limit the environmental and practical impact of toxic chemicals that are often found in RV holding tanks.

A couple of the most notable chemicals that the bill bans are formaldehyde and bronopol. As you may already know if you've read some of our other blogs, RV holding tank treatments that use formaldehyde and bronopol will kill beneficial bacteria in RV black tanks and septic systems. When this occurs, a septic system will fail to treat waste effectively, which means that solids can pass out of the septic tank, clog the leach field, and cause the entire system to discharge inadequately treated wastewater into the ground. SB-317 seeks to keep this from happening.

Chemicals that CA SB-317 bill bans: 

  • Formaldehyde
  • Bronopol
  • Dowicil
  • Formalin
  • Glutaraldehyde
  • Paraformaldehyde
  • Para-dichlorobenzene
  • Benzene
  • Toluene
  • Xylene
  • Ethylene glycol
  • 1,1,1-trichloroethane
  • Trichloroethylene
  • Perchloroethylene”

Not only does California’s SB-317 bill ban the use of these chemicals in RV holding tank treatments, but it also addresses the issue at its source, banning companies from including these chemicals in RV holding tank treatments for sale within the state of California. 

As we've said for quite some time, you don't need to use caustic chemicals in your holding tank to effectively break down waste. In fact, we strongly recommend that you don't! The best way to treat an RV black tank or a septic system is with a safe bacteria + enzyme treatment. (More on this below.)

If you would like to read California’s SB-317 bill for yourself, touch or click here.

What Do You Need to Do?

In light of the previous section, the simplest way to make sure you don’t violate SB-317 (which is, as the bill states, a crime!) is to purchase and use only safe, non-chemical products that do not contain the above-mentioned chemicals. This is fairly simple to do if you’ve already been following The Unique Method, which encourages you to never use caustic chemical products! Instead, The Unique Method advocates that you use bacteria and enzyme-based products—like Unique RV Digest-It—in your holding tank. (If you haven't yet heard of or starting following The Unique Method, we encourage you to do so!)

As a high-quality, safe holding tank treatment, Unique RV-Digest-It only uses the best, most effective strains of bacteria to break down waste in your holding tank without using any harmful chemicals! For more information about The Unique Method and our products, touch or click here. To learn what items are "okay to flush" in an RV, check out this article!

In addition to not using products with these chemicals, there are other things you’ll need to make sure you do in order to be in compliance with SB-317. Specifically, the bill states the following: “Under the act, persons discharging waste are required to file with the appropriate regional board a report of the discharge and the discharge is subject to waste discharge requirements prescribed by that regional board.” In other words, if you are a campsite, travel center, RV park etc. with RV dump stations onsite, you’ll need to file a report with the appropriate authorities. We recommend that you check with your local authorities, a full link to California SB-317 rules can be found here.

In addition to reporting your dumping, campsites, travel centers, and RV parks must display a sign making guests aware of changes to California law. We have made a sign that is compliant with these rules here:

All and all, while it can seem complicated, California’s SB-317 bill shouldn’t negatively effect you if you have already been implementing the RVing habits we recommend:

  1. Use only safe, bacteria + enzyme-based products in your RV’s holding tanks.
  2. Make sure to not allow chemicals into your holding tanks from other sources (e.g., from RV toilet cleaners, all-purpose cleaners, etc)
  3. Implement common-sense, safe, and responsible holding tank dumping habits. 
  4. Follow The Unique Method, which covers the previous points!

If you follow these recommendations, you should be in complete compliance with SB-317! 


We hope that this article has helped you to understand what California’s SB-317 bill is and how it effects you as an RVer! We understand that this is a complicated topic, so if you have any further questions, concerns, or comments, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at support@uniquemm.com. We’d love to chat with you!

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