Saturday, December 2, 2023


Rest area dump stations are closing. Where you gonna go?

To paraphrase, “If it weren’t for your dump station, you’d have no place to go.” Sad to say, rest area RV dump stations are becoming about as scarce as mercury-free tuna. This week, Iowa joins a list of states that no longer offer RV dumping at its rest stops. Yes, rest area dump stations are closing, but why?

Dump stations aren’t just for black water anymore?

We went to the horse’s mouth for an answer. The horse turned out to be Steven McMenamin with Iowa’s Department of Transportation. Why, we queried, is the Hawkeye State closing down the dump stations? It seems Iowa has had its own “hawk-eye” on dump station use. Sad to say, there are some inconsiderate, and just plain dumb, folks who think dump stations aren’t just for black water anymore.

dump stations are closing
A small chunk of a the original 820′ long fatburg found in a Whitechapel, UK sewer. Photo: Lord Belbury on wikimedia. org

Iowa officials have found people dumping stuff down RV dump stations that they shouldn’t. Oil and gasoline are major concerns. Too lazy to take their waste oil to the auto parts store or recycle center? Maybe. In any event, pouring motor oil into a sewage system is asking for a FOG problem. Fats, oils, and grease—any of these get hung up in the drain system, then grit sticks to them, and, hey, presto! The resulting product is a huge clog called a “fatburg” – some scale in at 150 tons! All that poop’s gotta go somewhere, so when it hits a fatburg, it easily bubbles up through a man hole cover. Yuck!

Additionally, with Iowa’s penchant for cold winters, McMenamin tells us that keeping the dump stations operating in the chilly season is just plain tough. And then there are the other “maintenance” issues his department runs into, e.g., idiots who vandalize the dump station equipment, adding material and labor costs.

Municipal black water backlash

But Iowa’s dump stations are closing for more than just issues of illegal dumping and other stupid acts. Many of the state’s rest areas are presently connected to septic systems. Septic systems are costly and hard to maintain, so Iowa officials have approached municipalities near their rest areas with the aim of hooking into city sewers. “If we don’t agree to close down the dump station, they won’t even talk to us,” reports Iowa’s McMenamin.

Iowa officials claim they’ve given this issue some serious thought. And they say that they called around and talked to other states about the matter. An Iowa TV station reports that Iowa’s officials say, “most do not offer dump stations.”

Dump stations closing or closed—but where?

We wondered about that last claim. Just how many states do allow your do-do? Here’s a list of states that DO have dump stations in some of their rest areas and/or welcome centers:

Alabama. Arkansas. California. Colorado. Connecticut. Delaware, Georgia. Idaho. Illinois. Kansas. Louisiana. Maryland. Mississippi. Montana. Nevada. New Jersey. Ohio (on the turnpike, for a fee). Oregon. Pennsylvania (at least on some turnpikes—but with a fee). South Dakota. Washington. West Virginia. Wyoming.

On the other hand, here are states where dump stations are closing—or rather, they’ve probably already closed:

Arizona. Florida. Indiana, Iowa. Kentucky. Maine. Massachusetts. Michigan. Minnesota. Missouri. Nebraska. New Hampshire. New Mexico. New York. North Carolina. North Dakota. Oklahoma. Rhode Island. South Carolina. Tennessee. Texas. Utah. Vermont. Virginia. Wisconsin.

Finally, we’ve reached out to Alaska and Hawaii, but haven’t heard back from them. We’ll update you as we find out.

So here’s the score

Red — No dump stations at rest areas. Green — dump stations at some rest areas. White — no information. Yellow — see text. CLICK TO ENLARGE.

So, what’s the score here? Are more states’ dump stations closing or closed? By our count, 23 states still let you dump your tanks in some rest areas; 25 definitely are shut down; and those two outliers we’re not sure about. By land mass, it looks like the “no rest area dumping” is winning out by a slight margin.

With many rest area dump stations closing or closed, where you gonna go, when you gotta go? You’ll likely have to turn to a “paid” dump station, although happily, there are some municipal sewage treatment plants that allow RVers to dump for free. Still, don’t think you’re stuck with paying $10 at a truck stop. Here’s a resource we find helpful when we’re on the road. is a site we’ve found pretty reliable. It’s driven by RVers who contribute information in real time. Consider joining up and adding your input?

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a rest stop with an RV dump station, sorry Professor Hill, we don’t think you “oughta give Iowa a try.” [from “The Music Man”]



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bobby (@guest_244912)
4 months ago

ive never had a problem with dumping. either i camp at full hookup sites or there is usually a small fee on the way out to dump in others. all else fails….shhhhh, i can dump at home in my cleanout…in the dark of course…lol

Suellen (@guest_243887)
4 months ago

In Washington State a big portion of our licensing fee goes to maintain rest stop dump station. So not free but fair. Also I like that the “free” dump station are available to our homeless RVers.

BERNIE TURNER (@guest_243551)
4 months ago

My local campground in a small town allows use of the dump station for only three dollars. Real bargain in my opinion.

Gary Bate (@guest_243260)
4 months ago

I don’t think we have a “right” to free state or federal dump stations anyway, so it doesn’t bother me that locations are being shut down although my state does offer a few I’ve never used them. There’s always paid options available with a little planning it shouldn’t be an issue. We also have a free dump station where we store our RV 10 minutes from our home. I recently installed a flush screw plug on our 4″ sewer cleanout which is conveniently located next to the hose bib on our driveway so I prefer the luxury of that after a trip on the road to dump and flush the tanks. But I have no problem paying $10 to dump when needed. Many of our State parks will let you “pay at the dump”. It just takes a little foresight and planning on the road which is what we do anyway. Really it’s a non issue, close them all so the idiots can stay idiots and government can find better uses for our tax dollars, you know like $300 toilet seats!!!

Vince S (@guest_243191)
5 months ago

I think the excuses given for closing are just that, excuses.

If someone wanted to dump waste oil, trash or paint, let’s be real, it be a heck of a lot faster/easier/cleaner to pour down a vault toilet than funnel down a tiny 3” pipe. No, this strikes me more as a “budgetary adjustment”.

The good news is you can run a macerator discharge hose into a vault toilet to dump. The bad news is some people won’t do that and places will start smelling like the water they indifferently dump. Just ask a few Walmart or Cracker Barrel managers how incredibly inconsiderate people can be. It exceeds comprehension.

Bob (@guest_243127)
5 months ago

After a week of RVing in the wilderness, I called a couple of RV campgrounds that were along the I-5 in California… On my way back home. One said I could dump for five bucks another 10 bucks.

Neal Davis (@guest_243100)
5 months ago

I had nlo idea that states have dump stations. I used one in Alabama in 2016. We have septic at home and have a separate tank where we store our RV. We typically get a site with full utilities, particularly if we are staying longer than a week, or dump at home after a trip.

Doug (@guest_243063)
5 months ago

Get off the freeways and travel the slow lane on the 2 lane highways. Lots of small towns and a lot of them have free small camp areas. Most will have some sort or dump station. It really take a complete nitwit to dump anything at a dump station besides their black water and grey water.

Mike (@guest_243022)
5 months ago

Most roadside rest areas are for a couple of “reliefs”. Why should the taxpayer be paying for a week or more worth of “reliefs”.

Now, if a ‘pay for your tank dump’ facility could be established….

Earl (@guest_243198)
5 months ago
Reply to  Mike

OK, Good point. Put in a fenced in area with one way in and out. put up a payment machine outside the entry gate. or a app to install on your phone where you put in location number and pay. just like a car wash. you pay the gate opens and closes after you go in. dump your tanks and pull forward and the exit gate opens. now what would you pay to use a nice clean dump station? $10 to dump and flush out. Maybe refill your clean water tank if needed. I think that would be a excellent way to do it. put up 24hr video cams.

Andy Ball (@guest_243273)
4 months ago
Reply to  Earl

Morro bay state campground in California has a pay per use dump station with a cap on the discharge inlet that unlocks when you swipe your credit card on the adjacent pay station, simple and easy to use.

Thomas D (@guest_243011)
5 months ago

I bought a macerator and some easy plumbing tapped into my home septic tank. I pondered doing it but my septic tank was designed for 5 people and we only have 2. Nice to go home and know you have a place to dump. Maybe the new owners of a rv should have a book to study up on working of a septic system. No grease or fats for sure

bull (@guest_242990)
5 months ago

“Where Will They Dump”

On The Side Of The Road!

Where else do you think a lot of folks will DUMP when no dump station is EASILY available.

They sure as heck are NOT going to do it at home!

Last edited 5 months ago by bull
Tommy Molnar (@guest_243003)
5 months ago
Reply to  bull

Depending on your living conditions, you can install a dump station at your house. We finally did but have only had to use it occasionally. Luckily we knew exactly where our sewer pipe was located and simply tapped into it. I know this is a limited solution for most but it sure works for us (and any RV’ing friends who visit).

KellyR (@guest_243091)
5 months ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

I never gave it a thot when buying my RV.. I just assumed that every house had a sewer clean out that they could dump into. Mine is a 4″ clean-out next to the house on the way to my septic system. People need to ask their plumber as to the location of the clean-out.

Earl (@guest_243211)
5 months ago
Reply to  bull

When I’m at my home base i have a dump drain hooked to my septic. but when i travel i make sure every 3 to 4 days i stay at a RV park where i can dump and refill my water tank. There is always a BUT. There is now days homeless folks that live in old RVs that are dumping there tanks where they’re is no one watching. Like in the National Forests. or your right when you say on the side of the road like on exit ramps or when there driving down the road. Its a whole different time we live in now. If you see this type of activity please report it to local authorities.

J J (@guest_242975)
5 months ago

I live in Ohio. Since your low-resolution picture just shows a blur where the text is, what does it say?

Diane McGovern
5 months ago
Reply to  J J

Sorry, J J. I can’t read it either, but up above for Ohio it says “Ohio (on the turnpike, for a fee).” I think the map was just used for the colors, not for anything written on each state (although I’ll check with Russ to confirm this). Have a great day, and a super Fourth! 😀 –Diane at

S Shields (@guest_243533)
4 months ago
Reply to  Diane McGovern

Ohio turnpike doesn’t have a separate fee to dump. Was just traveling on it last week and dumped for free. Turnpike itself costs to drive on it.

Diane McGovern
4 months ago
Reply to  S Shields

Thanks for the info, S.👍 Have a good evening and a great Fourth! 😀 –Diane at

Kara (@guest_242974)
5 months ago

My husband and I dry camp/boondock whenever we can…and then gladly PAY for either a campsite for the night or a dumpsite to empty and refill. When something is FREE…the “irresponsible” always ruin it for the “responsible”…
Fuel stops offering a dumpsite with fillup
is as American as it gets!
Happy 4th of July! 😃🇺🇸

Jeffery H. (@guest_243110)
5 months ago
Reply to  Kara

Same, here. When necessary, we leave the wilds, go to a campground for a night, dump, refill, maybe do laundry, and restock supplies. After that, we return to the wilds until we once again need to spend a night in a campground.

Also, saw a dump station at a Loves today. $10.

Steve H (@guest_242959)
5 months ago

We still have a few rest areas in Colorado with open dump stations, but most are in the mountains along I-70. However, many towns in the mountains–Salida, Montrose, Durango, Craig, etc.–have closed their public dumps in parks and fairgrounds. And even some Federal campgrounds in places like Turquoise Lake and McPhee Recreation Area have closed their dumps due to abuse by RVers and boaters. Finally, there are NO dumps at rest areas along Colorado’s portion of I-25. So, we are slowly, but surely, headed toward a future with no free public dumps in Colorado. Fortunately, some service station chains in a few mountain towns have recognized the need and provide dumps that are free with fuel fill-up.

Jim Johnson (@guest_242949)
5 months ago

It’s not just rest areas. Publicly accessible dump stations – free (rarely) or reasonably priced paid, are kinda rare in my opinion. While private campgrounds generally have no charge for paid guests, they tend to charge a stiff fee for pass-through users (anything more than $10-$15 depending on the locale is in my mind, over priced).

Since RV repair services by definition need to be able to dump waste tanks, you might think their connections might be available to the public – for a fee – but that is not always true as I found on a recent trip where I mooch-docked at a relative’s home.

Bob P (@guest_242946)
5 months ago

The states forget it was tax payer money that built the Interstate system with the rest areas and it’s taxes that keeps the interstate system open. Possibly the State has been siphoning off tax dollars allotted for this and using the money for a pet project not connected to the interstate.

Cancelproof (@guest_243040)
5 months ago
Reply to  Bob P

Say it’s not so. Federal funds allocated for one thing and then being used for another?

Spike (@guest_243219)
5 months ago
Reply to  Cancelproof


KellyR (@guest_243093)
5 months ago
Reply to  Bob P

Also, much of the Interstate system was built before there were so many RVs with waste systems on board. Our first two trailers in the 50s and early 60s did not. This Big RV Adventure that we have today is sort of new.

Jesse Crouse (@guest_242944)
5 months ago

The penalty for getting caught should be the {bleeped} has to clean out one of the “non open” sites. From a Plumber.

Tom H. (@guest_242936)
5 months ago

Two forces against us and keeping dump stations available: 1 (which has been stated) those who feel entitled to do whatever they wish at the dump station. Put whatever they want down it, vandalize the equipment, leave it a mess, etc and 2 minimally manned rest stops. There aren’t the personnel to take care of the whole place so amenities have to go away. We don’t like paying taxes but it takes people to make things happen. So if you’re asking for lower taxes you’re asking for fewer public services.
Just saying

Kev (@guest_242955)
5 months ago
Reply to  Tom H.

Maybe if the government used our tax dollars on the citizens that pay them instead of billions of dollars in foreign aid we could have more public services
just saying

Kara (@guest_242979)
5 months ago
Reply to  Kev

Truth! Hardworking Patriots are seeing THEIR hard earned income being extorted and not used for their benefit…

Cancelproof (@guest_243041)
5 months ago
Reply to  Kev

Like the 51st state of Ukraine?

Sherry (@guest_242932)
5 months ago

It seems to me a lot of this “illegal” dumping could be fixed by putting a camera showing vehicle plates by the dump station &/or you have to insert your credit card to dump.

Bob P (@guest_242945)
5 months ago
Reply to  Sherry

How do you monitor someone dumping something in the dump tank with just a camera looking at a license plate, unless you seen someone pouring oil and not using a sewer hose?

Sandi Pearson (@guest_243017)
5 months ago
Reply to  Bob P

Thanks…I can’t unsee “not using a sewer hose”:)

Last edited 5 months ago by Sandi Pearson
Seann Fox (@guest_242927)
5 months ago

In California some dumpstations are being closed because local youth are finding great fun dumping plastic drink bottles and bags down there and the state got tired of having to clean it out

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