By Chuck Woodbury
Anyone who has traveled with an RV for a few years either has a sewer-related horror story to tell, or who has heard one from another RVer.
Mine is when I plugged into what I thought was a waste disposal drain, only to find it wasn’t after I pulled my black tank handle. Lucky for me I caught my mistake right away with minimal damage (and embarrassment).
Doug Swartz of Drainmaster.com, once told me a story about a woman who found a rat in one of her holding tanks. Now, that’s truly bizarre!
Here’s what prompted this post. A fellow named Steve Korsvall posted this on our Facebook group RV Horror Stories. Yikes, this is a horror story for sure. He wrote:
“Can you imagine what we see in our line of work? We are called the RV Proctologists of Quartzsite, Arizona.
“A RV park manager called us and told us you got to get out here ASAP. A lady hasn’t emptied her black tank since her husband died the year before. And poop is starting to pour out the storage doors. Yes it was an ugly site.
“Well we found out the top of the tank exploded and filled the storage area and pushed the doors open. So we shoveled everything out and removed everything including the tank and her toilet
“We installed a new Delta household toilet tied in the vent to the new 3 inch discharge pipe directly to the discharge pipe under the fifth wheel. Happy widow and happy manager.”
OKAY, YOUR TURN. Tell us your RV sewer horror story. Don’t be shy.
Bought a new 5r that had remote handles for the black and gray tanks. Went to empty the tanks after a long weekend and found out the hard way that the cable to the black tank was disconnected and valve in the open position. I had quite a surprise when uncapping to connect up the sewer hose.
I was visiting a SKP park in Arizona and happened to get there the day after a desert hailstorm. The first RVers out that next morning who figured they needed to dump their tank got a big shock as there suddenly were several more ‘sprinkler hoses’ around the park. The hail had apparently come down hard enough to puncture some of the sewer hoses. What a surprised bunch of people! Since then I’ve always put guttering OVER as well as under my sewer hoses, just in case.
I had a near miss from the “El Cheapo” stinky slinky, provided by the dealer package with the new RV. The hose had sprung a leak roughly 3 feet from the attachment to the RV dump connection. When I pulled the Black tank dump handle, a black water geyser nearly shot me in the face before I could jump out of the way. Since I had on my rubber gloves and had avoided the water facial, I decided to just play Little Dutch Boy and put my finger over the hole until the dump was finished. I rinsed as normal with the grey tank and carefully examined the hose. I found some rust chunks in the bumper storage that had likely vibrated the hole in the hose, so I bought a Rhino Extreme hose and made a bumper mounted container with a 5″ PVC fence post. Problem solved and near miss well remembered!
We bought an old RV, Chris, sight unseen. My husband uncle had tried to get my MIL to buy it. Couldn’t be snowed in CA, so uncle was selling for a friend. Picked it up. Used the toilet at night a couple nights. Moved on to my sister’s as first stop on the way back to CO. Husband was underneath, checking things out. Can’t in “we don’t have any holding tanks!”. Previous owner had been discarding anything that failed. Next day, in an RV park, walking the dog, approving the unit I realized there was no slide valve on sewer pipe, just a cap! On a long pipe from toilet. We learned a lot about how the black tank-piping-valves-toilet system is conducted & works as we replaced it. Oh, we found a secluded dump station & got it emptied, but not without a bit of mess. What a learner’s RV that was. Black tank was just the beginning. Haven’t trusted uncle since.
My wife and I were in a nice RV park near Houston. The only way to clean a black tank effectively is fill it with water and flush it 3 or 4 times. (Iknow you are not supposed to fill the tank with the valve closed) The in tank tornado sprayer does not work well enough evidenced by the crap that keeps comming out. One time i forgot my timer and blew up the tank. My wife found out our friends next to us did the same. They traded their 6 month old Montana in on a new RV without telling anyone. Right after that friends on the other side of us blew their black tank also. I wonder how many used RVs have blown black tanks. Luckily warranty covered our repair. I set my timer religiously.
Why is one not supposed to fill the black tank with the valve closed? What do you use the timer for? TIA
Good question. We ALWAYS fill the tank, multiple times. How else is it supposed to clean the tank? The secret is, you don’t walk away while in the process. We give it 4-5 minutes to fill, then open it up again. The amount of water that goes into the tank depends on the water pressure where you’re dumping. RV parks are notorious for low water pressure.
If you stay nearby you can hear the water spraying in the tank. Listen until the sound changes which tells you that the water level has filled to the level of the spray head. It helps if you know how high on the tank the spray head is. The fuller you can get it the better. The spraying also creates turbulence to help wash it out.
The simple way NOT to blow up your black tank, even when you’re filling w/water w/the valve closed, is to come inside, flush the toilet to open the slide at the bottom of toilet, and use a flashlight to see how the water level is progressing. When it gets to where you’d like, go back out, turn off water & dump tank. Every 2nd or 3rd time I do this, I’ll turn off water but leave tank, with some Dawn in it, undumped for a day or so and dump the next day. It IS amazing what stuff comes out.
While sitting on the throne I felt a vague not normal sucking sensation. Finished and flushed immediately realizing something was terribly wrong. Went outside to see what’s up to find the entire contents of the black tank emptied onto our site. The park was completely full. I was so happy a crowd did not gather to observe the festivities! Luckily we were able to get repairs done very quickly by a nearby RV repair. The black tank hose fell right off the bottom of the tank. As it was late in the day people were out grilling. Just as the two men finished the smelly job one of them said “somebody’s cooking chicken”. Couldn’t believe he could smell anything except “the job” LMAO
So many questions about this woman who didn’t empty her tank. One big one is how was she able to continue using the toilet without it backing up inside the rig? Did she never go outside? Was she not able to smell? So many more but I’ll leave it there.
Something stinks about this story
$h!t… something stinks about this story.
Hook up the sewer hose, pull the gray water valve, let a little out and close it. Make sure there are no leaks. NOW pull the black valve.
Easier to clean up gray water than black water.
Good advice that,luckily, I always follow. Couple of trips ago my clear elbow came off the RV dump pipe when I pulled the gray handle. Quickly shut it, reattached, and continued dumping the tanks with minor embarrassment.
My wife and I had just bought our new 2019 Keystone and decided to take it camping. When we arrived, it was raining hard so I didn’t worry about the sewer. We were getting ready to leave the park so I needed to dump. I got everything ready and removed the end cap. Either the dealer or the manufacturer didn’t close either valve. When the end cap was removed everything came out and onto me. I jumped, but not in time. My wife wouldn’t let me in the camper with those clothes on.
My grandson (9 yrs old) used the toilet in the RV. He apparently had been saving up for this moment and now the projectile would not go down when he depressed the foot pedal. I explained to him, “sometimes you have to float the boat before it will travel down into the tunnel.” I had him depress the pedal slightly so water entered the toilet but not down into the holding tank. When he had enough water to float the boat I told him to quickly push the pedal to the floor. Problem solved.
I was solo-driving our Class A out west. Suddenly, one of my inside ‘dualies’ let go, and the belts completely destroyed the black water tank. When I stopped, there was a stream of sewage on the road. A policeman happened to be following me, and saw the blowout. He stopped, and as we both walked to the back of the RV, he took one good sniff, decided that there was nothing he could do – and left me standing there! I limped to a tire place, but didn’t find sewage repair until the next day.
Most folks don’t know they can call the City or County or State road department when this type spill happens, especially if it’s in town or close to a ditch, riparian habitat or the beach, and let them know so they can have their sewer maintenance folks come and clean up with their suction hoses and buckets of disinfectant. That way the sewage doesn’t go into storm drains or ditches which then go to rivers or the ocean depending on location. Hopefully, if it warranted, the policeman called it in. Of course, maybe you weren’t close enough to any waterways or storm drains for it to matter this particular time. But it’s good to know there are resources out there.
Wow. Good advice.
While work camping at different resorts, I often interact with “newbies”. If they seem open to advice I always give them a couple of tips on waste disposal. The first is to ALWAYS double check that the hoses are really connected, because that was my personal (flood the area with sewage) sewer story. Then I tell them to empty the black before the gray. Fortunately these are mistakes you usually only make once.
While camping in a park with two others (both relatives), it came time to pull up stakes and one brother-in-law hooked everything up correctly (he thought) but when he pulled the black tank handle, the end popped out of the ground connection and whip-sawed, in snake like fashion, spraying the side of the other in-laws RV. It was quite a mess before he could get the ‘snake’ under control. Why he didn’t close the handle I’ll never know, but he sure was funny chasing after that hose.
After a long day traveling to our camp site. I Started to hook up the fresh water I got distracted by a neighbor and hooked the Hose to the black tank flusher instead. Turned on the water and went for a cup of coffee. Heard a big bang. When I investigated I found that the black tank had expanded and spread the rails that it was sitting on and fell out the bottom of the 5th wheel taking the sewer pipes with with it. Poo was flying out the vent pipe on top and covered the roof. Big Mess.
I can personally attest to the importance of NOT becoming distracted when flushing ones holding tank. Not only is that an expensive mistake to make it is quite aroma apparent. So far I have only done this … twice … so far … and yes I know how not to do that but when totally distracted….
Having spent time in Quartzsite, we’re familiar with the “RV Proctologists” (not because we needed their service, but because we’ve seen their truck around). This story has me not even WANTING to produce a visual in my mind. Nuff said . . .
All I can say to this story is a BIG, Absolute YUCK! But I have to ask, No disrespect to this woman, Did she Not know you have to empty and clean out your Black Tank? Perhaps not? Her late husband, probably did all that nasty stuff or possibly had someone else do it for them!
There is no measure of imagination to how that must have smelled! WOW!
My Mom was a full-timer for 20 years and I have “camped” for almost that long, however, many have not. My ex lived in our camper after our split. After several weeks he called to complain about the odor in his rig. I asked him if he had dumped and he said “What do you mean?”. He somehow never thought about where all the “waste” was going. Not stupid, just ignorant of vital information.
This makes me laugh. Not campers, but my father couldn’t get dressed unless my mother laid out his clean clothing. I guess his mother did it before he married. I dearly loved both of them, but I am NOT that kind of woman.