Monday, December 4, 2023


Epic dump station design failure – Gross!

By Dave Helgeson
A while back I wrote about the venerable sewer hose and how one day it may become obsolete and relegated to the past. Well, some engineer at the Nevada Department of Transportation made an attempt to obsolete the sewer hose. They did this by creating a dump station where the use of a sewer hose is not an option!

Dump Station
No option to place a sewer hose into the receptacle.

No sewer hose needed at this dump station!

Now, through the years I have experienced my share of poorly designed dump stations where little thought or research, if any, was done. If you have been RVing for any length of time you know what I am referring to. An issue can be that it’s sloped the wrong direction or there’s no apron to catch spills. Maybe it’s located up or over a curb, or you are unable to insert your sewer hose more than an inch or two. Or maybe it’s located on a circular drive where you can’t align with it, etc. Much thought was probably put into the design of the dump station I am about to share. However, it is an epic failure in my opinion.

When I first pulled into the dump station at the Cosgrave Rest Area, located at Exit 158 on I-80 south of Winnemucca, Nevada, I could see this was not your typical dump station. There was more of an abrupt trench than an apron to catch potential spilled waste and direct it to the sewer receptacle. Plus, there was a steel plate at the end of the trench farthest from the receptacle. I surmised that the original trench was too long and the plate had been installed to keep RVers from driving into it.

Definitely not your normal dump station

Upon exiting my truck to commence dumping, I quickly realized this was definitely not your normal dump station. First, there was a grate preventing me from placing my sewer hose into the sewer receptacle at the low end of the trench. I tried to lift the grate but it was bolted in place. The only potential for waste to enter the sewer receptacle was through about a 2” slot along the bottom. But it was much too small to slide a sewer hose through.

Dump station
The instructions – No mention of using a sewer hose

After reading the posted instructions, I came to the disgusting conclusion that utilizing a sewer hose was not part of the equation! Needing to dump and being somewhat intrigued, I thought, “Why not?” I made sure the termination outlet of my RV was centered over the trench and “let ‘er rip.” Unfortunately, this quickly pointed out the shortcomings of this design.

Why this dump station design doesn’t work

Rather than graphically describe what occurred, I will point out what design flaws came into play:

  • Since we are on a spinning planet, fluids tend to circle a drain rather than flow to and down it. This is known as the Coriolis effect.
  • The trench doesn’t have adequate slope to prevent liquid waste and the solids within from boomeranging past the sewer receptacle and flowing back up the trench.
  • The button to activate the sprayers is under the steel plate mentioned above. But pushing it adds more fluid to the mess circling and back-flowing from the sewer receptacle area under the grate.
  • Wind is a force of nature that tends to blow things from their intended location.
  • The spray nozzles face towards the button you need to push to activate them.
    dump station
    The restricted opening to the sewer receptacle

    An added problem is one of the spray nozzles intended to flush the trench was partially plugged or aimed in the wrong direction. So the trench wasn’t being cleaned in a thorough and timely fashion.

    Watch the dump station in action

    Following is a video of the dump station explaining the design. Note: I chose not to provide an actual demonstration using the contents of my holding tanks!


[Editor: Please excuse the spelling on video. It should be Cosgrave, NV.]

As gross as this design and process is, there are a few positives:

  • You are able to determine if the toilet tissue you are using fully dissolves in your black tank!
  • You don’t need to use or flush your sewer hose when done.
  • There’s no need to don rubber gloves. But you may need to sanitize your shoes and other apparel if the wind is blowing when you dump!

Final thought on this design. Since you don’t need to use your sewer hose, why is there a hose bib at the dump station? It’s painted red, but it’s not labeled as “not potable.”  Hmmm. Fill your freshwater tank? Wash your shoes maybe???

What are your thoughts on this dump station setup? Feel free to leave a comment below.


Dave Helgeson
Dave Helgeson
Dave Helgeson has been around travel trailers his entire life. His grandparents and father owned an RV dealership long before the term “RV” had been coined. He has served in every position of an RV dealership with the exception of bookkeeping. Dave served as President of a local chapter of the RVDA (Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association), was on the board of advisors for the RV Technician Program of a local technical college and was a board member of the Manufactured Home and RV Association. He and his wife Cheri operated their own RV dealership for many years and for the past 29 years have managed RV shows. Dave presents seminars at RV shows across the country and was referred to as "The foremost expert on boondocking" by the late Gary Bunzer, "The RV Doctor". Dave and his wife are currently on their fifth travel trailer with Dave doing all the service, repair and modifications on his own unit.



0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe to comments
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Spike (@guest_195008)
1 year ago

At the Amana RV park (Amana Colonies, IA) they have dump stations that look like a large cement toilet bowl with a diameter of about 3 ft and perhaps 18″ deep. Drain hole centered in the bottom. I only observed it while walking the dogs, but never used it since the park is nearly all FHU sites. After dumping the tanks and “the stuff” going down the drain, it appeared the user would “flush the bowl” by opening a high pressure hydrant handle pushing water thru nozzles that came out of the bowl pointing around the circumference to create a swirling flush effect.

I think this design would work a lot better than the one depicted in this post, but the stench of open raw sewage would still be an issue.

Basiabob (@guest_130659)
2 years ago

We are camped at Cedar Bluffs State Campground in Kansas. Just watched a class A with boat attached dump at station with no hose. Gross and wrong in so many ways

Snayte (@guest_125850)
2 years ago

And I thought the dump stations that have a curb on ALL FOUR SIDES were bad.

Jesse W Crouse (@guest_125674)
2 years ago

Being a plumber. a working plumber. I can tell you that engineers are great at drawing lines on paper, but can’t do CRAP constructing a real life .consistently working and repairable waste disposal piece of equipment that doesn’t cost a thousand dollars to fix.

Roy Christensen (@guest_125553)
2 years ago

Thanks for the explanation and video. However, as a former science teacher I must point out that the Coriolis Effect is not to blame for this mess. The volume of water, velocity and distances are too small for the sewage to be deflected due to the Coriolis Effect. I know that people think that Coriolis causes the water in a toilet bowl to spin a certain way depending on which hemisphere you flush, but that’s not true. There were draining water experiments (at M.I.T., I think) a long time ago that disproved that common notion.

Carson Axtell (@guest_125545)
2 years ago

Unclear on the concept: This dump station design is used in Europe, especially in France, for GREY WATER ONLY disposal, which makes sense. Most European RVers prefer Class B campers, which use the externally accessed cassette for black tanks, and which can be removed and dumped in toilets in public restrooms. Even trial testing this design for black tank disposal publicly is a big brain f@rt…

Joe R (@guest_125528)
2 years ago

I used one almost exactly like this last fall. Having a motorhome I had to take the hose out and step on it to keep it from flopping around YUCK. The system didn’t work well because it was blocked with leaves from the trees that I did not see, again a major YUCK factor. My wife pulled the handle while I step on the hose and walked away so she did not have to watch the action, by the time she heard my shouting the pit was almost over flowing and my black tank was empty. What a mess with the system full of C_ _ _ and leaves, my hose submerged and my right shoe covered in it. I pitied the guy behind me and told him of the issue, needless to say he drove off with full tanks and I needed a shoe and sock replacement and a foot bath with Clorox and water.

Matt C (@guest_125518)
2 years ago

As I have seen many dump stations that were worse than this. I have a hard time not thinking that with some future development and the co-operation of the RV manufactures as to standards, this could be very effective solution. Moving the location of the wash-down control would be good.
The fact that it will be hard pressed to make it freeze proof will limit the acceptance.
After seeing many places with pavement covered by the paper flock that is what often remains of a spill, I can testify that there are many that do not know how to dump properly and almost as many dump stations that are at least as poorly designed as this.
The big disadvantage I see here is that many don’t know how to line up their dump outlet with the receptacle. That is a new camera location for the electronic RVs. Ours is not.

Boltman (@guest_125517)
2 years ago

I worked for my brother in law who owned a septic tank service and used a system real close to this design to dump when the tank got full.
We would back up to a trough like area open the valve and let Er rip! Then we would use the power hose provided to clean the area afterwards . It worked really well. Seems like this station needs some fine tuning!
Happy RVing and hope to see you down the road!

Tony King (@guest_125509)
2 years ago

Twice on our recent trip we came across 2 Dump Stations built right with a curb all the way around to contain any accidents etc….But somebody decided they didn’t want use their hose and just dumped inside the curbed area and then didn’t rinse their mess down the Drain. Twice I spent time squirting and dislodging dried, stuck on Black Tank contents before I could use the Dump for Myself. I treat Camp Sites & Dump Stations the same “I leave them cleaner than I found them” if needed.

Snayte (@guest_125851)
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony King

I hate that design. It does everything but contain spills.

Henry Mackenroth (@guest_125492)
2 years ago

Having designed a couple of dump stations I would like to add my thoughts. It appears that this is an attempt to comply with the Americans With Disability Act which requires that general use facilities be usable by all. There is a requirement also that fresh water taps for consumption be 20 feet or more from the dump site with a separate tap with hose for wash down. Tap handles are supposed to be handicap accessible.

It looks like carrying out normal maintenance by the staff would be a problem, such as clearing pipes, keeping trash out of the disposal slot (I would not want to be the ranger that has to dislodge a rock blocking the hole to let the backup drain) and the like. It looks like the sewage is conveyed to a treatment plant and not stored in a tank. Treatment of RV sewage is difficult due to the various chemicals people use to control odors and liquidy. The water flush probably freezes up, so that cold weather usage is not available.

Donald N Wright (@guest_125484)
2 years ago

I wonder who thought this up?

John (@guest_125464)
2 years ago

I would still have to use my sewer hose as my dump outlet is in a compartment.
There are sooo many things designed by people who will never use them.

rvgrandma (@guest_125521)
2 years ago
Reply to  John

I agree. I have a motorhome and like yours the outlet is inside a compartment. Guess whoever designed this never thought about that.

Brad Teubner (@guest_125454)
2 years ago

We have used a similar one west of Battle Mountain.
Used the hose to direct the mess under the grate.
Not too bad.

Magee Willis (@guest_125895)
2 years ago
Reply to  Brad Teubner

Have seen several of this type; don’t remember locations.

Tsippi (@guest_125441)
2 years ago

European dump stations are similar to this, but there are no black tanks in Europe, as people use cassette toilets. The one thing I will say about the hose-less design is that it would prevent a lot of the gross situations I’ve recently seen at national park dump stations, where renters weren’t supplied with hoses or new owners hadn’t purchased long enough hoses. And speaking of Europeans and others, rental companies should be required to provide dumping equipment, rather than making it an add on. People who haven’t RV’d in the U.S. may not understand why they need it.

PushwaterPete (@guest_125439)
2 years ago

Valmey Rest Stop I-80 Nevada has one of these as well.

MLogan (@guest_125437)
2 years ago

Have you traveled down Interstates in Alabama and stopped at their rest areas. They have similar dump stations but are deeper with a grate over the pipe. You still use your sewer hose and rinse just as at any dump station. Talk about smell, hope the wind is blowing away from the dump but still get the smell. No cost to dump.

Thomas D (@guest_125430)
2 years ago

I think the idea is good, just poorly designed
Deeper trench with more pitch would fix it.
Too bad the video didn’t show real time use. In most cases a 1/4 inch to the foot is standard practice for a sewer line but in this case it’s not enough.

Dr4Film (@guest_125413)
2 years ago

In either northern Louisiana or Arkansas while at a rest area I used a dump station similar to this one but still had to use my hose to get the contents from my service bay to the sewer. It was a large round concave concrete collection area which had a number of spray nozzles around the perimeter of the concrete collection area. I dumped the black contents followed with the grey contents and then turned on the spray nozzles to wash the area before leaving. The only drawback was the stench. Luckily I have never come across another one like that. Speaking of Louisiana, I stopped at a fuel station that claimed to have a dump station just off the I-10 freeway. Pulled in but could not identify the location of the dump station. Went inside to ask and the attendant said that it was location next to one of the fueling islands. Went out and looked, yup, there it was. An open grate about 16 inches square. NOPE! Not using that dump station and left. Used one at the next RV Park where we stayed.

Dennis (@guest_125507)
2 years ago
Reply to  Dr4Film

What you saw there was likely designed for commercial passenger buses. They have a discharge that points straight down and uses no hose. Quick and efficient, but requires getting the discharge pipe in just about the right place. Most of the ones I used had to be backed up to as they were open basins. The grating would be a bit messier to deal with.

Tom (@guest_125409)
2 years ago

Some one always graduates at the bottom of the class. Sounds like a “group design” where the group communicated by pony express.

Sign up for the

RVtravel Newsletter

Sign up and receive 3 FREE RV Checklists: Set-Up, Take-Down and Packing List.