Thursday, December 1, 2022


Dump station “engineering” comes up short


By Russ and Tiña De Maris
The old joke about, “Did you get your driver’s license at Walmart?” has a new variation as far as we’re concerned: “Did you buy your engineering license through Craigslist?” As RVers, you’ve probably had an experience like ours that leads to such a question. Here’s the scenario:

The cost of dumping is going up.

The days of free dump stations are getting pretty scarce. If you have to pay to dump, you’d think the charges would lead to better dump stations. We rolled into a TA Travel Center in Corning, California, a while ago. The outfit boasts of “free RV dump with fuel fill up.” Well, we crunched the numbers and determined that the higher cost of fuel was offset by the free dump. In the end, we’re not sure if numbers on a calculator take into account the whole picture.

After filling up the truck, we drove around to the dump station, set up parallel to the fuel islands. A big yellow curb, probably 10″ high or so, surrounded the dump station. The set up was laid out in such a fashion that the only approach to the dump station puts your RV on a slant — the downhill side of which is to the passenger side of the rig. Since your dump port is more than likely on the driver’s side of the rig, you’re automatically at a disadvantage, as gravity will mandate at least some of your holding tank contents will stubbornly refuse to evacuate your tanks.

dump-cartoon-762So the chief sanitary engineer in our traveling circus hooked up the dump hose to the rig, grumbling about the slant, and then encountered the next trick: Run the hose up the curb, across a slab, and then up yet another curb that surrounded the dump station’s port. In total, the tanks contents had to go uphill, then downhill.

Grabbing the black water handle, all went well for a few minutes, until the last of the black water contents refused to make the uphill climb to clear the hose. Grabbing the hose to “milk” it out, the hapless skipper suddenly discovered a previously unknown maintenance issue: The dump hose had chaffed and worn where it attached to the fitting at the RV end. That nasty old black water came splooshing out of the hose and making a hideous mess on the parking lot pavement.

Thank heavens, at least the “engineer” had thought to include a hosepipe at the station. Grabbing the rinse hose, your intrepid reporter began to wash the gross-and-grotty mess off the pavement. But to where? Down the slanted pavement to — not a pavement grate — there wasn’t one — just yards and yards of concrete. Can you say, “Crawl under your RV and hide?”

Cleaning up as best as able under the circumstances, the thought hit: What is it with engineers these days? It seems they all need to keep the old plumbers’ adage in mind: “Water don’t run uphill, and don’t lick your fingers.”


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2 years ago

I seriously doubt that a lot of the dump facilities I have used were actually designed by an engineer. The rules of engineering are thus: Payday is on Friday and Water runs down hill.

Not saying all engineers are perfect but I find that more campgrounds are constructed without enough thought process into the basics. I find a lot of sewer hookups and dump stations to be constructed so “it has to run uphill”.

2 years ago

At a nice newer RV “Resort”. Pedestal at back of site, power plug towards front of 41′ toyhauler, sewer connections where? Right straight outside your front door by your nice little concrete patio slab.

2 years ago

We were proud owners of a new 2017 Redwood 5th….but who was the engineer who put the sewer hose so far under the frame???…one has to literally lay on the ground and crawl under the trailer to get it out, use it and then crawl under to return it to the storage tube…. I believe that RV builders should be required to try their new ideas personally out in the real world before thinking of such great ideas. We now keep the hose in a 5 gallon bucket in the basement.

2 years ago

The town I live in built a new Public Works facility and were kind enough to install a new, free to use dump station. From my motorhome dump valve I need to go up over a curb then up over the concrete surround. It works with an effort but I have to hold the hose up and to drain the tank completely I need to lower the hose, close the valve, raise the hose so it drains, repeat as needed. I asked the city if they got plans/info to see how to construct the dump station and the comment I got was that an employee had “looked” at one at a local campground! Our government hard at work!!!

2 years ago

As a retired engineer having designed various drainage systems I have found the following additions by the contractors. The floor drains raised over an inch above the floor. That was a costly change order for the contractor. A 4″ x 4″ x 6″ block in a PVC Tee. We wondered why the drain didn’t work. A Bernz-O-Matic cylinder in a 6″ drain. Gravel in 12″ heat exchanger lines because they couldn’t dump it out before install. Now I didn’t request any of those alterations.

2 years ago

Been there with you. We/I have encountered uphill draining many times. This task is the single most repugnant part of RV’ing. However, we endeavor to persevere and we camp on.

2 years ago

We dumped our travel trailer at that station over thirty years ago and had about the same experience then. I believe there was only the one curb around the dump station at that time, but our hose had developed a leak bouncing around in the bumper and left a smaller mess than you experienced. Never stopped at that place again!

2 years ago

A great Christmas gift would be a sewage pump. I can drain through a garden hose uphill. Much cleaner and quicker.

2 years ago
Reply to  Bill


2 years ago

Ey got the dump station blues
It got all over my shoes
The hose broke
It ain’t no joke
Ey got the Sani Station blues
The Loneoutdoorsman

RV Staff(@rvstaff)
2 years ago

😆 —Diane at

Thomas Becher
2 years ago

How about buying a macerator. It doesn’t take up a lot of space, not really heavy and avoids those story’s I just read. Poo does flow uphill then. One of the best things I’ve ever bought. When I get home ,hook it up and pump it into my sewer. A garden hose dedicated for sewage is all you need.

Randy Bitner
2 years ago

This made me chuckle. Before winterizing, I had to drive 40 miles to a TOMS dump station. It was in the corner of the parking lot. When I asked they said to back in. Well my 5th wheel is 38 feet I could not back in because of trucks in the space. Could not get to it, plus no running water if I had a glitch. Well another 30 miles another truck stop I was told had a dumb station. Manager said, “I get that a lot, we do not have one.” Called the camp ground we use to go to, they have winterized their camp ground. Said to try the place that sells campers. Yes, they said we take everyone’s *!#@ it’s around back with a steel plate on it. LOL yeah, steel plate under another camper. Well crawled under, moved plate hooked up and finished my business, no water to rinse, but at least no mess. But in the end after 140 miles round trip, the camper dealer did not charge me to dump, all tanks empty. Washed hoses after getting back home. And not one place in my town is there a place to dump. A KOA about 30 miles away but all back roads, will do that next time. But what architect “Engineer” designed the small space at the TOMS truck stop never had a camper to understand that the drain valves are on the drivers side.

Nathan Rhodes
6 years ago

Some of our state parks in WI have taken to putting a curb on the road side of the dump station. Like in your situation making it impossible to rinse any accidental spills down the drain. I really do not understand the thinking here.

Tom Gutzke
2 years ago
Reply to  Nathan Rhodes

The thought is that the regular ground water from rain, snow melt, etc should not go down the sewer drain.

Ron Schulz
6 years ago

We had stayed at a CG of sorts in Mesa,AZ a few winters ago for the season. When it came time to hook up our sewer line I was quite surprised to see the sewer pipe sticking about a foot out of the ground. From the RV, which was sitting about three feet lower, it was quite a rise up to the sewer. Ended up going to CW in Mesa to buy a “Sewer-Solution” setup. Really worked great. If they didn’t have it I would have had to pay $40 for the honey service. I asked the CG owner about the sewer pipe height and he said it was high in case of flooding. Really?

Bill T
2 years ago
Reply to  Ron Schulz

Hi Ron. I have run into this situation a few times a campsites. What is the “sewer solution setup” you mentioned? Thanks

Ken Sims
2 years ago
Reply to  Bill T

I am curious also about the “sewer Solution”. But since Ron’s comment is three years old, we may never know.

RV Staff(@rvstaff)
2 years ago
Reply to  White Rabbit

This is a Valterra Sewer Solution video from Mark Polk at RV Education 101. —Diane at

2 years ago
Reply to  Ron Schulz

Another vote for “Sewer Solution”. That is all we have used since day one. You can buy an extra length of hose, separately. Which we did.
Still carry a typical sewer hose also….that has never been out of the box.

We often use the sewer clean out port in front of our house, when we return from a trip, before putting the rig in storage again. The clean out is located a bit uphill from the street. The Sewer Solution works perfectly pumping uphill, every time. And it is also much easier to store, in a short plastic tub.

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