Camper Catastrophes: Why You Should Never Empty RV Holding Tanks into Your Septic System

RV on the road

We often tell septic owners to flush only water, toilet paper, and human waste into their systems. This sometimes leads some RV owners to think it’s perfectly safe to empty their RV holding tanks into the system as well. After all, the contents appear to be the same. But the reality is, emptying RV holding tanks into your septic system can have catastrophic consequences, leading to system overload and expensive repairs. Read on to learn about the problems with emptying RV holding tanks into a septic system. We also provide some suggestions for where you can safely empty your RV holding tanks.  

Problems with Emptying RV Holding Tanks into the Septic System

Even though RV holding tanks and home septic systems both handle “household” waste, there is one important distinction between them. An RV is designed only to transport the waste, while a septic system is designed to treat the waste and return clean water back to the water table. Two major issues arise when emptying RV holding tanks into a septic system, and both can lead to catastrophic system failure. Such failure can have devastating impacts on you as well as the environment.

Overwhelming the Septic System

One major concern when emptying RV holding tanks into a septic is overwhelming the system and causing a backup into the home or allowing solids to flow out into the drainfield. RVs have two holding tanks that need to be regularly emptied and sanitized – one for grey water and another for black water. The grey water tank collects water that is washed down the sinks and shower as well as what is used by the washing machine. The black water tank, also known as the RV’s septic system, holds anything flushed down the toilet. Depending on the size and class of the RV, “grey water” holding tanks typically have a capacity between 40 and 65 gallons, while “black water” holding tanks usually range between 18 and 64 gallons.

Flushing 58 to 109 gallons of anything into your septic system at one time is going to cause significant issues. Many of our articles stress the importance of staggering water-heavy chores, like laundry and the dishes, throughout the week to avoid overloading the system. While a septic holding tank may have a capacity of 1,000 gallons, a normally operating septic tank liquid level is typically even with the bottom of the septic tank outlet pipe. This does not leave room for receiving 100 gallons of grey and black water from an RV.

RV Holding Tank Chemical Treatments

Because of the close proximity of RV holding tanks to the living space, RV black water tanks are treated with chemicals to help break down solids and reduce odors. Many of these treatments include enzymes, meant to break down the solids, and heavy perfumes, meant to control odor. The enzymes used to treat RV holding tanks are similar to those found in septic additives, like Rid-X, but are much more powerful doses. Emptying RV black water holding tanks containing these chemicals will not only overwhelm the system with an abundance of solids, but it will also completely alter the biological environment of your septic tank. As we have mentioned before, this biological environment is crucial to the proper functioning of a healthy septic system. Even when using environmentally friendly forms of these chemicals, dumping them into your household septic system can have devastating effects on the bacteria within your tank.

Where to Safely Empty RV Holding Tanks

The adventures that come with owning an RV can be wonderful, even if the unpleasant, yet necessary, task of emptying the holding tanks is not. Finding safe disposal locations specifically designed for receiving RV holding tank waste will not only protect the environment but will also save you from a septic catastrophe when you return home. Here are some common locations where you can safely empty your RV holding tanks.

RV Parks & Campsites

Many RV parks and campsites are specifically equipped with areas for emptying RV holding tanks. In fact, when you reserve a campsite, the maintenance of these offloading sites is often factored into the price you pay.

Truck Stops

Many truck stops and gas stations have offloading locations where you can empty RV grey and black water holding tanks for a small fee. In many cases, this service is included when refueling your camper. Call ahead to plan your pitstops along your route.

RV Dealerships

RV dealerships often rent out campers and, as a result, need to be able to service their campers upon return. For a small fee, you can often offload your RV waste at these locations as well.

Wastewater Treatment Plants

Specifically designed for treating significant amounts of wastewater, treatment plants will often accept RV grey and black water, again for a small fee. Be sure to call ahead to make arrangements.

If you’ve emptied RV holding tanks into your septic system, it’s important to schedule a service visit as soon as possible to assess and repair any potential damage to your system. Supeck Septic Services has been Northeast Ohio’s trusted septic provider since 1968. We are licensed, bonded, and insured to provide routine as well as emergency septic services. Contact us today to schedule your service visit!

Related Articles

Environmental Concerns of a Failing Septic System

Signs of Septic System Failure

The Myth of Rid-X and Why You Should Never Use It in Your Septic System