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.
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
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. Rvdumpsites.net 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”]