Here’s a question from a reader of RVtravel.com about boondocking.
Is dumping sewage and grey water into pit toilets permissible? Thanks. —Jim E.
This is another hard question on the hard topic of dumping waste water. The question is so hard that officials can’t even decide on a uniform definition of what gray, black, sewage, and wastewater actually are. Let alone what to do with it. Here are the problems:
(1) A vault toilet and a pit toilet are not the same. A pit toilet is a hole in the ground with an outhouse situated over it. When the hole nearly fills up, it is filled with dirt, a new hole is dug, and the outhouse moved over the new hole. A vault toilet is a permanent tank buried underground with a leach line that distributes the sewage over a wide area. The structure over the vault toilet is usually a permanent building and if the hole fills up, it is pumped out by a honey wagon and continues to be used. But for either one, dumping full gray and/or black water tanks will overwhelm both systems and in most (but not all) campgrounds the practice is forbidden. Some individual CGs could permit dumping into pit toilets if they wanted to and if the volume expected was unlikely to challenge the system – and that could change from month to month.
(2) In some states waste water from kitchen sinks is regarded the same as sewage in the black tank, and if discharged outside of a designated dump station would be ticketable (Arizona and Colorado come to mind).
(3) Often the BLM, forest service, and the state (e.g., Arizona) have conflicting rules for the same area.
(4) In some forest service campgrounds gray water pits are provided for campers to pour their dishpans full of wash water into but not to dump their gray holding tank. Blue boys (portable waste tanks) are questionable.
I could go on, but all it would do would be to muddy the issue further, so the best advice I can offer is that wherever you are camped ask either the on-site host/volunteer or ranger for the acceptable procedure. It may not be the answer you want, but it will be the safest – and the most environmentally responsible action.
Do you have a question for Bob? Email him at bob.rvtravel (at) gmail.com .