Can I Dump Black Water On The Ground?

Lance Truck Camper By The Water

Black water is a fact of RV life. It must be dumped, but where, how, and what are the rules? Fortunately, sanitary options are available for handling this odorous problem without ruining the environment around us.

Black water should never, under any circumstances, be dumped on the open ground. Not only is it illegal, but it is unethical and environmentally irresponsible.

We’ll explore ways to safely deal with black water while maintaining an environmentally responsible perspective.

Dump Black Water Responsibly

Dumping black water on the ground is illegal. Because of bacteria and possible diseases, black water must be dumped into a septic or sewer system only! You can dump your black water tank at a dump station provided at campgrounds, RV parks, and rest stops, or you can dump it into your home system.

Every good RVer knows where to dump their tanks. If you’re unsure, you need Sanidump’s Comprehensive Guide to RV Dump Stations e-book. It’s chock-full of the detailed information you need to keep your rig sanitary and legal.

Black water contains human feces and waste, which has the potential to host diseases and cause contamination.

If black water is dumped on the ground, it may contaminate nearby water sources. If there are any edible plants or farmland nearby, it may be contaminated by the bacteria-infested waste.

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Anyone drinking the water or eating the plants are at risk of getting sick. Animals could also spread the contamination. This may lead to widespread sickness and disease.

For these reasons, black water must be disposed of responsibly to avoid contamination of the environment.

My local RV dealer even has an dump station available.

No matter what, care must be taken that no contamination occurs while dumping the black tank.

You should be familiar with the process of dumping your black tank and be certain that you have the proper equipment to do it safely.

Safe Dumping Practices

It is highly recommended to use protective gloves to prevent cross-contamination. Simple safety glasses can also help stop an accidental splash. The gloves and eye protection I use are available on Amazon for a reasonable price.

A little hand sanitizer never hurt either.

Whether you dump at a station or home, you need to be sure that you have a sewer hose long enough to reach the septic drain hole. Here is a perfect beginner one I recommend from Amazon.

And if you’re looking for a convenient way to store your black water hose, check out the magnetic bumper cap I use to store my hose.

Black water hose storage

If your black tank system has an external black tank rinse port or another cleaning attachment style, never use a drinking water hose for it. There is a risk of cross-contamination. Mark a hose exclusively for this purpose and make sure it is used for it.

After connecting the hose to the septic system, and then to your RV, open the black tank valve. Let the black water completely drain. The black water tank should always be drained before the gray water tank. The gray water will help to flush out your flexible sewer hose if there are any contaminants or solids left by the black water.

After emptying both tanks, many campground dump stations offer a freshwater rise hose as well. You may also want to use your choice of cleaning agents to disinfect the tank handles, connections, and hoses.

Home Dumping Should Be Chemical-Free

If you choose to empty your black water tank into your home septic system, resist the temptation to add chemicals to the mix.

Any chemicals added may disrupt the good bacteriaOpens in a new tab. that are hard at work, breaking down the solids in your septic system.

Even if your sewage empties into the city sewer, there still must be a good balance of helpful bacteria working wherever the waste ultimately goes.

Disrupting this balance could lead to an imbalance in the system that may result in a build-up of solid wastes in the septic tank.

Just dump in your black water and let the bacteria fairies get on with their work.

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Dump Station Special Rules

If you dump at a dump station, be aware that there is usually a nominal charge for the use of the station if it is not part of your campground fees. While this need not be a deterrent, it is helpful to know these things ahead of time to avoid unwelcome surprises.

There are a few rules that should be observed when using a public dump station. These include the following:

  • At a dump station, remember you are prohibited from dumping anything into the system except your tanks’ contents. This is to prevent clogging up the larger system that the station empties into.
  • You are required to clean up any spills and pick up any trash that belongs to you.
  • Dump your tanks as quickly as possible while maintaining safe practices. Likely other RVers are needing to dump as well.

Want even more information? Make sure you pick up the Sani Dump Station Guide. It is perfect for the RV beginner.

A Third Option Is Available

So, what if you’re all snuggled into your camping spot with five days of vacation left when your sensors say your tanks are full? You don’t want to break up camp to go up to the dump station, only to have to go back through the process of setting up again.

Enter the RV portable waste tank. Sometimes called a honey wagon or blue boy.

Portable Black Water Tank

These allow you to empty your tanks without needing to move your RV. The portable tank is then transported to the dump station for emptying.

You can read our more detailed post on RV portable waste tanks here. And check out our review of the honey wagon we use below.

Yes, it does involve a bit of extra work, but considering the degree of work that can accompany leveling and blocking an RV, the extra work may be well worth it!


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    How Often Should Black Water Tanks Be Emptied?

    The quick answer is “when its full,” but there is no hard and fast rule about this. It will depend on how big your black tank is and how many people are filling it.

    If your RV has sensors, then, of course, it is easier to know when they need to be emptied. If there are no sensors, or if your sensors have stopped working, it can be a bit of a guessing game.

    We RV with two adults and two kids. We can go for a long weekend without filling our black tank if we conserve a bit. So, if you are camping alone, you probably won’t need to dump until you’re ready to go home.

    If we are camping for a week or more, if our site doesn’t have full hookups, I bring our portable waste tank.

    If your black tank isn’t full when you need to dump it, try to fill it up first. If there isn’t enough liquid in the tank, the solids may gather on the bottom and not flow out when you open the black tank valve.

    The general recommendation advises dumping when tanks are at least two-thirds full or more.

    It’s Called Black Water for A Reason

    In case you haven’t figured it out yet, the black water tank is where your toilet stores every flush. Unlike your home septic or sewer system, which deals with the down and dirty for you, your RV will require some assistance to dispose of its load.

    In some cases, campground or RV parks will have “full hookups” beside the RV pad where you can stay connected to the septic system all the while you’re parked there.

    This prevents having to break down the RV and drive it to the nearest dump station. You can dump every day if you wish.

    But be sure that even when you are connected to these ports, you keep your black water tank closed. Otherwise, all the liquids will constantly drain out, and all the solids will get left in.

    This result in a smelly mess that will be difficult to clean.

    Left untreated, at some point, you will notice an odor from a black tank. A high-quality black tank treatment like this one from Amazon will solve that for you.

    Black Water Doesn’t Have to Be Messy

    Black water is undoubtedly one of the more inconvenient parts of camping, but it doesn’t have to ruin your trip. Most campgrounds have facilities for dumping black water, and quite a few rest stops are now providing facilities as the number of RV’s traversing the country increases.

    Want even more information? Make sure you pick up the Sani Dump Station Guide. It is perfect for the RV beginner.


    Sign up for our newsletter and get notified of all the latest RV news and gear! Don’t worry, we won’t spam you.


      Andy Beckman

      Andy and his wife Niki had their twins Adilynn and Archer, in 2014. By 2017 the whole family was camping. It is a great way to unplug from the daily grind and focus on what it means to be a family. They started a YouTube channel in early 2020 and enjoyed creating content that new RVers find useful.

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