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You Never Forget Your First RV Black Water Spill

Published on February 21st, 2024 by Robin Acutt

Once upon a not-too-long ago, we bought a trailer. The seller didn’t tell me that every RV comes with that inevitable first black water spill at the dump station.

We became RVers because years of tent camping had taken their toll. With two young kids in tow, the amount of time and hassle spent packing, setting up, tearing down and repacking was getting to be too much.

And the biggest pain in the rear? Using campground restrooms, some of which, let’s face it, are pretty disgusting. Almost as gross as the stinky slinky sewer hose, which I had yet to learn about.

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RV Life Was All Her Idea

Memories of our first RV camping trip. (Image: Robin Acutt)
Memories of our first RV camping trip. (Image: Robin Acutt)

And so, my industrious wife, Carol’s curiosity was piqued when some friends revealed they’d just bought a candy apple red Shasta Airflyte trailer… that had a toilet and shower! Of course, it had a black water tank too, which I would get well-acquainted with later on..

She quizzed them about the rig, did some research, and then told me we were buying one. “What? Why?” was my initial response, my suffer-and-rough-it frugal Dutch/South African roots revealing themselves. “Because we need it”, she winked at me, “you’ll thank me later.”

The following week, we drove up to Fresno, and 6 hours later, we were the proud owners of a 19’ seafoam green Shasta. The bloke at the dealership gave us a quick tour, but for newbies like us, a lot of the info didn’t quite sink in. Especially the part about dumping the holding tanks. We tried to listen, we really did, but I think the prospect of handling human waste caused us to gloss over it.

And so, our story as an RVing couple begins.

The Black Tank Dumping Chore Sounded So Easy

Our first trip in the trailer, barely a couple weeks later, was to Sedona, Arizona to celebrate Thanksgiving. We found a lovely trailer park near town called Lo-Lo-Mai Springs RV & Tent Resort. Our family spent a few fun-filled days exploring town, hiking the red rocks, and preparing a full on Thanksgiving meal over the campfire.

Oh, and I almost forgot. The wife and kids gleefully enjoyed the trailer’s RV toilet, filling the wastewater tank to the brim.

But while the site had electricity, it didn’t have a sewer connection. Always in the back of my mind was the looming specter of our very first sewage dump. I mulled over the seller’s instructions for RV dump stations – pull up to the drain, get rubber gloves on, hook up the pipe to the outlet. Open the black tank gate valve, open the grey water tank valve. Once the senor level reads zero, close the valves, unhook from the sewer line, sanitize your hands and you’re done.

Sounds easy, right?

And so, brimming with confidence, on the day we left we circled the wagon around to the campground dumping station. The kids stayed in the car to watch our first visit to a dump station. Carol went into the trailer to monitor the tank sensor. She wasn’t going to get too close to the poop, that’s my department. I warily approached the ominous hole in the ground.

I dutifully pulled on my cheapo plastic gloves (which probably ripped), got the sewage hose out of the compartment, then stuck one end in the ground. I took a deep breath, and removed the cap on the black tank valve to connect it.

And then all hell broke loose.

A torrent of poop, pee, and RV toilet paper flooded out all over my shoes, staining the soil of the beautiful campground. I froze for a second in disbelief. I wondered, “Is this supposed to happen?” Then I unleashed a torrent of curse words. And with Carol screaming at me from the trailer that the poop was coming out, weighed my options.

Put cap back on, or hook up the sewer hose? I chose the latter, and fortunately was able to hook it on and seal the connection fairly quickly.

But not before the piddle had made a puddle in the middle of scenic Lo-Lo-Mai, with islands of you-know-what floating around.

The worst part was, I was sure everyone in the campground was watching in shock. Were they shaking their heads at the newbies stinking up their holiday with foul odors? Probably. But I’ve since come to release, in the camaraderie of RVers, almost weekend or full time RVer has had a dumping nightmare at some point on their travels. Every RV forum is full of these RV black water tank disasters!

Our First RV Black Water Spill Clean Up Began

We drained the trailer holding tanks, added toilet chemicals, then got out the shovel and put dirt over the puddle. I worked out some $@&*%$#@! person somewhere along the Shasta assembly/distribution line had left the black valve open. A cruel joke maybe?

I closed the valves and unhooked. In true suffer-and-rough-it South African fashion, tossed my shoes in the trash, cleaned myself up at the spigot, got back in the car to see the kid’s shocked expressions. THen I proceeded about the day like nothing big had happened. I mean, what are you going to do?

Oh, one other thing – the tank sensors didn’t go to zero. They never have, no matter how much I shake the trailer to get the last drop out. Apparently that’s pretty common too.

Since then, we’ve had many amazing adventures with our trailer.

Tank goodness (pun intended) nothing on the level of the great RV black water spill dumping fiasco of 2015.

And after a lot of research and development, Carol has elevated our camping experience. She developed a line of luxury and stylish RV gear available from Luxury In The Outdoors. After all, we’ve not gonna let a little RV black tank poop stop us from having a good time.

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