What's in Your Tank?

RV dump sign

This is the not so fun part about RVing….talking about our holding tanks. However, sometimes it’s just necessary. Around the country, and more specifically here in California, we are having ground water quality issues. As a result, the California Water Quality Control Board is increasing regulations and water testing requirements that affect campgrounds and RV parks across the state. And it’s not just commercial operations. State Parks, National Parks, and other public agency campgrounds are facing the same challenges. From time to time, campground and rest area dump stations have been closed and businesses have been denied the right to install dump stations. Some campgrounds have even been denied the ability to add more RV sites.

So what’s going on that would cause water contamination?

Basically it comes down to the chemical-based holding products used by RVers to control the smell from their holding tanks. These chemicals prevent bacteria from breaking down the waste and can cause the waste water treatment systems used by campgrounds and RV parks to fail. A more in-depth explanation has been provided by the University of Arizona’s Extension Program. Click here to read more explanation.

Chemical-based products most frequently contain formaldehyde or other chemicals that convert to formaldehyde in a holding tank environment. Besides being a biocide, formaldehyde has been determined to be carcinogenic. Pull out your holding tank product….if it has a skull and cross bones on it, you can pretty safely say that your product includes formaldehyde. One of the biggest challenges facing RVers is figuring out what is in your product. Very few manufacturers include the product list on the packaging. More often than not, you must obtain a Material Data Safety Sheet (MSDS) to determine the contents.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the California Department of Toxic Substances have both generated warning fact sheets in regards to formaldehyde-based holding tank products.

EPA Alert 

CA Dept. of Toxic Substances Alert

The good news is that chemical-based products are quickly being replaced with bacteria and enzyme based products. These products are safer for you and the environment. Additionally, they augment and aid the break down process of waste matter in whatever waste system a campground has in place.

The California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds has compiled a list of all known products and listed their ingredients based on the product’s MSDS. While every effort has been made in the creation of this list, it is by no means the authoritative document in regards to RV Holding Tank products.

Holding Tank Product List

California Campgrounds and RV Parks encourage you to use environmentally responsible products. Bacterial and enzyme based products protect you and your family from harmful chemicals, as well as protecting California’s precious ground water.