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Open Roads Forum  >  Travel Trailers  >  General Q&A

 > Black water tank health concerns and questions

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OregonMan

Oregon

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Posted: 08/27/22 10:58am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Hi guys, something I've completely avoided doing in my travel trailer since buying it in 2018 is using my tanks - neither the fresh water, grey water or black water tanks have been used once in any way. Part of the reason is because I want to avoid the hassle of dumping and cleaning the tanks, carrying the extra weight etc. But the biggest part of my concern are health issues that could be caused by carrying around a tank full of my waste underneath where I eat and sleep. It's no secret that human waste can create a lot of bad bacteria and parasites and sometimes mold. I am concerned that if I start using my tanks, the black water tank especially, that harmful bacteria/mold could form that would find its way into the air of my trailer and that it might lead to health problems.

Are these concerns unfounded? Are waste and water tanks on newer travel trailers designed well enough where it truly keeps all of the bacteria and bad stuff sealed off from the rest of the trailer? Maybe I'm spoiled from having real plumbing most of my life, but the idea of having a tank full of bacteria, parasites and potentially harmful mold sitting right underneath my living area sounds like a surefire way to get health problems.

Thanks for any feedback or sharing your experiences with this. As I get older it becomes harder for me to walk or drive to facilities to use the bathroom and I'm considering finally starting to use the tanks in my trailer but the health concerns are a sticking point for sure.

Lwiddis

Southern California :(

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Posted: 08/27/22 11:06am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Your fears are completely unfounded. “Cleaning” a black or grey tank consists of dumping, filling to 3/4 full, driving with turns and slightly hard stops and dumping. Purists can repeat if desired. Been RVing 1978 with no mold from waste tanks. Part of the reason I have an RV is it’s my potty, sink and shower, not a public potty, sink and shower. PS - There is literally no difference in my “modern” RVs waste tanks than in my gone but beloved ‘78 Beaver truck camper.


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Grit dog

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Posted: 08/27/22 11:12am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Well I don’t have any data to back it up, other than if what you’re fearful of was actually a concern, I would think it may have surfaced over the decades and millions of RVers who do use their tanks…..
I’ll go with unfounded fear. Good luck.


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aftermath

Washington State

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Posted: 08/27/22 11:30am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Are these concerns unfounded? Well, yes they are but I understand where you are coming from. Have you ever heard of anyone getting sick because they use their trailers as they were designed to be used? Anyone? And, there must be millions out there.

Do you know anyone who has a septic system at their home? Do they get sick because of the bacteria somehow gets airborne and invades their home? The Gray tank is basically filled with sink water. You use your sinks daily and a lot of this stuff is held in the P traps. Have you heard of anyone getting sick because this bacteria laden water somehow gets airborne and infects everyone in the house?

There are chemical additives for your black tank to take care of these issues. When used as per manufacturer recommendation they are perfectly safe. Same goes for your gray tank and with proper care and maintenance you will be totally safe.


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QCMan

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Posted: 08/27/22 12:20pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

It is so much safer to use public toilets and showers and sinks than using your own facilities where you have full control over the cleanliness. Personally, I will take the risks involved in using all the parts of my self contained unit.


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2oldman

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Posted: 08/27/22 12:26pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

OregonMan wrote:

As I get older it becomes harder for me to walk or drive to facilities to use the bathroom... .
Your concerns are unfounded. Most everyone here uses their tanks without any reports of what you're afraid of.

However, if you find it hard to simply walk, you may find dumping your tanks a bigger chore than you expect. And, ironically, it's a lot more unsanitary dumping your tanks than living near them. Given your concerns, wear heavy long gloves and be careful with spillage.
QCMan wrote:

It is so much safer to use public toilets and showers and sinks than using your own facilities where you have full control over the cleanliness.
I think you mean it's less safe using public toilets.

Gdetrailer

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Posted: 08/27/22 12:27pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

OregonMan wrote:

..

Are these concerns unfounded? Are waste and water tanks on newer travel trailers designed well enough where it truly keeps all of the bacteria and bad stuff sealed off from the rest of the trailer?..


There is nothing "different" with RV waste water systems than your home.

In your home, you have black and grey water, toilets as black and sinks, shower/tub is grey and they all combine into one drain..

Home toilet uses a water filled trap to stop fumes and odors.

RV toilet uses a valve at the bottom of the bowl to perform the same duty as a water filled trap.

Home sinks, tub, shower have a water filled trap to stop fumes and odors..

RV sinks, tub, shower ALSO has water filled traps.

Germs, bacteria, odors in RVs are sealed from your living quarters.

RVs unlike your home temporarily stores the waste water in tanks under the floor of your RV until you can find a dump station to offload.

The only time you may run into an issue is if you were to overfill the grey or black water tanks, then you have a "backup" of that water into the lowest point of your RV fixtures.. Pretty much the same as what happens in your home if your main drain line clogs.

If you simply make sure you dump the tanks on a regular basis you will not run into the overflow issue.

So, yes, your fears are unfounded.

As far as dealing with dumping and cleaning tanks goes, it is up to you how difficult or how easy you wish to make the process.

Some folks go through a lot of cleaning and sanitizing steps, some may be needed, some may not.

For grey and black tanks you don't need to sanitize. Black tanks, you do need to add enough water to help breakup any solids before dumping.

Grey tank since in theory should not have solids shouldn't need water added for dumping.

Dump black tank first, close black tank valve when flow stops, then open grey valve. The grey water will flush out much of the black tanks contents from your sewer line.

Now you can continue to camp.

If you want to freshen the black tank some, add clean water and some dish washing detergent like Dawn to the black tank, partly fill the black tank with clean water, then dump the black tank. That reduces the odors you will get for a short time when flushing the toilet between dumps. I do that when done with camping for the season.

For freshwater tank, to sanitize you can add chlorine bleach to the tank, fill tank and let sit for a period of time, then dump the tank (should have a drain valve on the bottom of the tank).

HERE is a good "primer" on sanitizing your freshwater system.

Bumpyroad

Virginia

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Posted: 08/27/22 12:35pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

OregonMan wrote:


Are these concerns unfounded? e.


yes
bumpy





Lwiddis

Southern California :(

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Posted: 08/27/22 12:36pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Have an experienced RVer show you how to dump cleanly for you and the dump station. Rubber gloves, hand sanitizer, a small bucket or dishpan, safety glasses, maybe a stool. First rule is “hookup” securely the hose to the dump hole before you go near your trailer’s dump connection.

spoon059

Just north of D.C.

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Posted: 08/27/22 12:54pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

OregonMan wrote:

Are these concerns unfounded?

Yes. A properly designed RV system is perfectly safe. Dumping a black tank is a non-issue. When it's full, dump it. If you have a black tank sprayer, use that every few times to really get everything out. NEVER leave your black tank empty, always have at least a couple gallons in the bottom to keep it from turning into a brick.


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