Black tank

Monday July 27th 2020

There are very few things in this world that can that can make for better stories around a campfire than a black tank story, whether it happened to you or something you watched happen.

My first experience with a black tank happened many years ago, and still to this day makes me smile just thinking about it. I would guess that I was just a teenager at the time so it’s more than fifty years ago, most likely the last family vacation that I was on with my whole family. Mom, dad and four kids, in northern Ontario, on our way back from a vacation in the western provinces, a Ford galaxy and an eighteen foot Glendale travel trailer, at a roadside rest stop somewhere along the Transcanada highway in northern Ontario. Growing up on a dairy farm in southern Ontario, vacations were always a rushed event, as away from the farm time was limited, because we had to rely on someone else to milk the herd twice a day, and it was always between crop harvest, usually just after hay and before oats, so mid July.

My dad George always wanted to cover as many miles as possible each day so early starts, late stops, and a lunch break, usually at a roadside rest stop, they used to be more plentiful, usually two or three picnic tables and some vault toilets. The total back story eludes me but, we were having trouble finding a place to dump our tanks, and with six people, it was an every couple of day requirement. But back in the sixties there was not the structure in place or the information as to facilities available, so this particular day as we were having lunch at a picnic area mom and dad were discussing the need to locate a spot to dump before we stopped for the night. And the discussions continued about our route, and the best spot to stop for the evening, we were overtaken by that unmistakable aroma of sewage … as we were finishing lunch my youngest brother took it upon himself to dump the tank right where we were sitting! To say there was scrambling would be an understatement, first there was shoveling, digging and covering, a quick clean up after lunch and a quick departure, and onto a new spot far far away. The innocence of children, there was a problem, he found a solution, it was just that easy … and after the initial shock and panic, we laughed about the situation as we rolled down the road.

There is a fellow that runs a business that is called the “RV proctologist” now this man has many stories, but my favourite was of a younger couple whom had purchased a big new motor coach, and with any good salesman he up sold this couple a case of single used black tank treatments. So they were told to add the whole bottle every time they dumped their black tank, but after time they found they were having issues with some sort of blockage in their black tank, so they called the RV proctologist and on his discovery he found nearly two dozen plastic bottles of RV black tank conditioner, still sealed full of the conditioner. The couple just dropped one or two into the black tank each time, instead of dumping the contents only … but the salesman said “put the whole bottle in”.

Then there was the story of a friend being in line at the dump station, which is not uncommon on a Sunday afternoon campground empties. They were behind one of those rental units, you know the ones “Discover the USA by RV” and sat in amazement as the fellow pulled up to the dump station and just pulled the lever, no hose, just a stream of sewage circling the drain, the poor guy didn’t know the sewer hose was in the bumper. Imagine our friends horror being next in line, but to his credit he did explain to the fellow where things were to avoid the reoccurrence, but the fellow was about two weeks into a month long trip. Yikes!

I actually sat in the drivers seat and watched a fellow campers hose come apart at his feet as he was dumping his tanks at a campground in Arizona. Again a brand new trailer, the salesman sold him every thing he needed, but didn’t take the time to explain everything properly, which is very common, starting off camping your very first time comes with a serious learning curve, and without a little guidance and assistance can scare newbies for life.

Just ask anyone who has dumped a black tank more than a couple of times, and you will here of issues either leakage, or a hose issue, or just a general fear of the “Black Tank” everyone has experienced it at one time or another … just saying.

Here are a few tips you should know about your black tank.

  • Your black tank is going to stink! At times, just accept it.
  • Some tank activater or an enzyme will help.
  • The vent on the roof must be checked for blockage, insects love to nest there.
  • A 30 gal (110 litre) tank should hold a family of four 7 days.
  • Never leave your black tank valve open (you will discover something called pyramiding) not something you want to discover!
  • Don’t go cheap on your sewer hose (your worth the extra few bucks)
  • Limit the toilet paper and only use paper that shreds (see my toilet paper blog)
  • Your tank gauge will never read correctly, just accept it and move on!
  • Invest in clear plastic sewer hose connectors, while a window into a world you didn’t want to see, but it’s nice to know when your tank is empty.

As always stay safe, watch out for idiots, and be well.

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