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Old 02-29-2024, 09:46 AM   #1
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Is it ever OK to dump the gray tank on the ground?

We have never dumped the gray tank anywhere but at a dump station and this is sort of an academic/ethical question. It came up peripherally in a Trade Wind thread where when boondocking batteries become less of a concern and the gray tank will likely fill up before anything else becomes limiting.

Someone commented that dumping the gray tank is acceptable in some situations, but did not elaborate. I am sure there are remote places where dumping the gray tank is easy to get away with it, but just wondering, is it ever ok?
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Old 02-29-2024, 10:10 AM   #2
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The simple answer is 'no'.

The longer answer is likely 'it depends'. Depends on the locale and the local rules, depends on the contents of the gray tank, depends on the environmental conditions, depends on the technique employed to prevent ecological damage, etc, etc.
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Old 02-29-2024, 10:25 AM   #3
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If your gray tank has only soapy residue from showers, hand and dish-washing…. If you are dumping in a place the property-owner has approved…. If you are in a truly remote boondock area where others are unlikely to visit in the next several days…. I say it’s fine…. Mother Nature will likely appreciate the water and nutrients.

Real “Gray water” is so harmless that it should be fine to dump down a street-storm-sewer…. It’s no different than what you do when you wash your car outdoors.

If it contains trash or visible food particles…. Not unless the property owner gives permission. IMO

I own rural property and have no problem with anyone who wants to dump gray water out in the pasture away from the residence. I do it myself.

The cows, deer, and coyotes and wild hogs aren’t so polite …but they cause no problems with their waste either. I took personal-charge of teaching the new puppy where to urinate.

(Richard… are you telling us that you’ve never pee’d outdoors..?) LOL
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Old 02-29-2024, 10:33 AM   #4
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We have never dumped the gray tank anywhere but at a dump station and this is sort of an academic/ethical question. It came up peripherally in a Trade Wind thread where when boondocking batteries become less of a concern and the gray tank will likely fill up before anything else becomes limiting.

Someone commented that dumping the gray tank is acceptable in some situations, but did not elaborate. I am sure there are remote places where dumping the gray tank is easy to get away with it, but just wondering, is it ever ok?
Sure, at home in your own yard!

The only practical difference between this and using a septic system is the few feet of dirt on top of the tile field. It's no different than throwing the bucket of dirty soapy water on your lawn after washing the car. Food waste particles are a bit different than some shower water, so think about that. However, nature - oxygen, UV radiation from the sun, microbial activity - will rapidly break down this bit of wastewater and render it clean. Even soap seems to have a very short half life.

The other thing - you don't want to hold the grey water in the tank for any length of time because it will become septic. Ideally, you would use a cap with a hose attachment and let the grey water flow as you generate it. That way you won't deal with foul odours and eliminate a possible source of risk to human health.

This is not legal advice, BTW. Your jurisdiction may have rules against it. But I'd say the risk of environmental harm from a few gallons of grey water is negligible.

Now in a campground . . . I think tent campers in many places still throw their dirty dishwater into the bushes, but that seems to be changing. And if everyone dumped grey water in the same place, you'd have a soggy, smelly mess before long.

When boondocking, it depends. That bush next to the trailer might appreciate the moisture. And I think this is still acceptable in some places. Where it's not, it's probably because of bad behaviour by a small number of people.
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Old 02-29-2024, 10:34 AM   #5
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I agree with the above comments, it depends. A consideration not mentioned is that any food stuff will attract animals from slightly annoying like ants and flies to considerably annoying like raccoons and bears!

We carry a 5 gallon portable waste tank which you can transfer waste water to and carry it to the bathroom. With a waste tank cap which has a hose fitting and a short hose this is neat and easy.
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Old 02-29-2024, 10:57 AM   #6
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Use common sense, right? As mentioned, if you look at the big picture, if your not using any harsh chemicals in your gray tank, what is the harm with draining onto a remote area which may include your campsite? I carry a 10' garden hose for just such purposes. We only use biodegradable soaps. When boondocking the gray tank can fill quite fast. Use good judgment is my moto. Watch all the folks walking their dogs, the wild animals, and tent campers who throw out the dishwater...where do the tent campers go potty, by the way? As a kid camping with my folks and cousins, we were taught to go in the bushes and to burry our potty; that's what some folks still do, I am sure, if there are no porta-potties around.

Now, the black tank....that's a whole different story! Think Chevy Chase's cousin Eddie, dumping his black tank in the street drain in the movie Christmas Vacation! Crazy, but I have seen that happen in the desert one time by an inexperienced RVer...what do you do?? Yell at the guy and perhaps get shot at, or just move along and turn him in? Isn't camping fun?
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Old 02-29-2024, 11:20 AM   #7
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If only one person dumped the grey tank at a campsite, probably no harm to the environment, but lots of people camp at certain sites and if all of them dump, it becomes a mess. Since you can't watch out for too many people at a specific campsite, the only answer is to ban dumping any grey water as the only practical way to control excessing dumping.

Then there is human food—much is unhealthy for animals (that includes us, but we make our choices). That is not so good for animals and could even be worse than not good—some foods are toxic to other animals (think chocolate and dogs).

Back in the 50's and into the early 60's Airstreams dumped on the ground. There were no tanks. You'd dig a hole under the dump valve and move on after covering the hole. As RV's became more common, that couldn't work. Airstream helped companies that made toilets and tanks for RV's get started.

Those days are long over. If camping for a long time and the grey tank may fill, then go to paper plates and save as much water as possible—no showers, for example. Or buy a giant motorhome with a hundred gallon grey tank. Tenting causes the same issues, but since tents don't come with 40 or 50 gallons of water, they usually don't have much to dump. Tenting campgrounds of any size almost always have a bathroom (usually a pit toilet) and sometimes a station to wash dishes. Yes the animals do it on the ground, but aside from having thousands of people going around putting Depends on animals (would you like to diaper a mountain lion?), there is not much we can do about it.
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Old 02-29-2024, 12:13 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by field & stream View Post
I agree with the above comments, it depends. A consideration not mentioned is that any food stuff will attract animals from slightly annoying like ants and flies to considerably annoying like raccoons and bears!

We carry a 5 gallon portable waste tank which you can transfer waste water to and carry it to the bathroom. With a waste tank cap which has a hose fitting and a short hose this is neat and easy.
Ditto.
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Old 02-29-2024, 12:21 PM   #9
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Just to give some additional perspective, my background with holding tanks is from boating. Boats with toilet facilities have blackwater holding tanks, which must be pumped out at a dockside station (or may be discharged when at least three nautical miles offshore in the ocean.)

But grey water just discharges directly overboard. Sinks have drains that exit via thru-hull fittings. Showers have sumps that pump overboard. Etc.

So grey water on boats is not considered a threat to the environment. I would almost rather see grey water get filtered through soil/sand/etc before ending up in the watershed, than being directly discharged as it is on boats.

In remote boondocking situations (eg BLM land out West), I would feel comfortable allowing grey water to actively drain via an extension hose. But I could see where this would create a real mess in formal campgrounds, plus why do this if there are dumping stations available?
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Old 02-29-2024, 12:57 PM   #10
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Dairy farmers spread manure on fields. When I wash my car, I use soap, and it goes out my floor drain to the outside. When I eat an apple or a banana I throw the remainder out the window. It is organic material. It decays. Any organic material will decay. One main issue is not to use phosphate soap and dump it near waterways. That can lead to algae formation. And of course in a campground with other campers, that's not acceptable either. That can lead to fly and mosquito issues. Just read that mosquitos cause more death per year than any other living being.

Thus the word "depends." If I lived on 40 acres in the country I wouldn't hesitate to dump the grey water tank out on the ground.

Frankly I would be more concerned about the use of non-organic fertilizers on our lawns.
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Old 02-29-2024, 02:01 PM   #11
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Question: Hey "Park Guy" in charge, I want to make sure, I understand something correctly. It's illegal for me to allow my gray water to run on the ground from my camper correct? Answer: "Sir, if you do that, I'll have to write you a ticket and charge you a fine".

Question: Hey "Park Guy" in charge, I want to make sure, I understand something correctly. It's legal for me to put up a shower tent for showering and Ok for me to wash my dishes, etc.. allowing the water to run on the ground, correct? Answer: "Sir, thank you so much for being one with nature and understanding we all must do our part to keep nature the best we can for others and future generations"

Enjoy,
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Old 02-29-2024, 02:34 PM   #12
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Question: Hey "Park Guy" in charge, I want to make sure, I understand something correctly. It's illegal for me to allow my gray water to run on the ground from my camper correct? Answer: "Sir, if you do that, I'll have to write you a ticket and charge you a fine".

Question: Hey "Park Guy" in charge, I want to make sure, I understand something correctly. It's legal for me to put up a shower tent for showering and Ok for me to wash my dishes, etc.. allowing the water to run on the ground, correct? Answer: "Sir, thank you so much for being one with nature and understanding we all must do our part to keep nature the best we can for others and future generations"

Enjoy,

Funny that you put it that way, but…

I’ve been in campgrounds where you cannot was your dishes outside nor put up an outdoor shower tent.
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Old 02-29-2024, 03:34 PM   #13
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How many of you have ever used your Airstream Factory-Supplied outside shower facility..? Doh.
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Old 02-29-2024, 05:30 PM   #14
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In some cases, this is a legal question. In other cases, it's a question of ethics, and/or common sense.

If legal in a particular jurisdiction, then yes, I'd dump grey water outside, providing it didn't interfere with anyone else or cause undue surface water nastiness.

I'm not sure any of y'all have pulled the grey tank valve and let 37 gallons of grey water drain out on to the ground, but it can easily create quite a mess under certain ground conditions. I myself have never attempted such a feat!

However, to save grey tank space, I have been known to toss dishwater out in to the woods, fling it around a grassy area nearby.... or collect shower water in a bucket until it gets warm enough to jump in

I do have a hose hookup on the valve cap, and can run a length of hose away from the airstream to an appropriate greywater site, if legal, though have never done so as of this posting.

I've also washed dishes, and a few other items at times, with the outside shower hose, and flung that water out in to the area around a campsite, if noninvasive to other campers.

But beware, yankin' that grey tank valve and letting a full 20, 30, or near 40 gallons of grey water discharge rather quickly right next to and/or under your camping unit could produce a few unwanted results
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Old 02-29-2024, 05:49 PM   #15
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Shower effluent is not gray water because of the...nether regions...that get washed in the shower. Is it enough to be a problem? Simple answer: Would you want your kids playing where the previous RV dumped its gray water?


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Old 02-29-2024, 05:52 PM   #16
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When I eat an apple or a banana I throw the remainder out the window.
Please don't when driving by my house.
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Old 02-29-2024, 07:59 PM   #17
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"I think tent campers in many places still throw their dirty dishwater into the bushes, but that seems to be changing." It sure is. Now they go to the closest water faucet and wash their dishes there, leaving soap suds all over the place.
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Old 02-29-2024, 08:10 PM   #18
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NEVER is it OK to dump gray water IN or AT a campsite! ONLY at a remote area where it will not leave a muddy mess and will be absorbed by nature.
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Old 02-29-2024, 08:27 PM   #19
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Only with proper equipment and circumstances.

One should keep a long hose for this and discharge only into adjacent campsites occupied by loud late-night neighbors after they have finally retired. Preferably by the light of a quarter moon.
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Old 02-29-2024, 08:36 PM   #20
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Dairy farmers spread manure on fields. When When I eat an apple or a banana I throw the remainder out the window. It is organic material.


Really?? What is your address? I have plenty of "decaying organic material" I can share with you.
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