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Old 05-09-2017, 01:30 PM   #1
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The Ethics of Gray (Grey) Water??

I would love to hear more about gray water "ethics."

This new thread carries over a discussion about modifications to improve the gray (grey) water holding tank dump from nearly a year ago. While any RV with a gray water holding tank needs to dump eventually, this question focuses more on PUPs and high-wall PUPs with tiny gray water holding tanks. My HW-277 has a 12 gallon gray water tank, and the fresh water holding tank is 26 gallons along with another 28 I carry in jugs. That math adds up to needing to dump the gray water tank 3 to 5 times during a typical trip.

Many seem to feel that gray water is some sort of health hazard or contamination. I question this, because all manner of tent campers do their dishes in or near the campsite, and their gray water goes straight to the ground with no objections from state and national park rangers. I am aware that some “commercial” campgrounds provide dishwashing stations that collect sink water, but most don’t.

My question focuses on environmental and health concerns – not as much on etiquette – but etiquette is a valid consideration.

To set the stage:
In the close quarters of a formal campground, I'll drag a 5 gallon bucket to the pit/vault toilet or in private campgrounds, take it to the toilet or dump station.
But when boondocking in drought-stricken national forest, I believe that gray water is a precious resource--as are any nutrients in the water. I don’t dump gray water on the actual site. I use my 5 gallon bucket to collect the gray water directly from the drain (standard PUP) or from the gray water holding tank (HW PUP). I fill the bucket and tote it away from the site and pour it out to water the trees. I spread it around to as many locations as I have buckets of water. Sometimes I’ll use some to extinguish the campfire.
Obviously, this method is NOT suitable for swampy areas or areas where soil percolation is poor and the gray water might turn into runoff that enters a stream or lake.

Getting to the point: I'm curious. Is there a case against dumping gray water when boondocking--besides someone misinterpreting your act as dumping black water?

RATIONALE FOR MY PRACTICE:
Gray water is beneficial in many ways.

The soaps (dish soap and hand soap - or shower soaps and shampoos) are surfactants. The surfactants in the soaps can be beneficial, and at the highly diluted concentrations in gray water, their impact is more or less negligible anyway. Dish soap useful in garden, also | Home and Garden | tucson.com. There are many sources that discuss the merits of surfactants in horticulture and agriculture. Soaps/surfactants are primarily “wetting agents” that make water “wetter.”

As former executive director of a nonprofit focused on pesticides and toxic chemicals, I know what is in "typical" gray water...not just mine...is essentially benign. Wildlife rescue workers use Dawn dishwashing detergent to save wildlife contaminated with crude oil from spills. With few exceptions, we all put shampoo and hand soap on our bodies – even on our babies’ bodies. Nobody should be using antibacterial soaps, and I don't, but even those who do use so little that the concentrations are negligible (in this “application”). If you’re flushing toxic chemicals down your PUP drain, that’s another discussion. And, if you’re in a big RV equipped with a laundry, many laundry detergents are not as benign as dish soap, so that, too, is another discussion.

Most tent campers typically wash dishes on site. Soaps, food waste, and so on usually remain in the site and are dumped within feet of the picnic table or campfire. Food waste, paper plates and more often end up in the campfire. Most PUP and other campers have far better sanitation. Gray water from a PUP or holding tank can be toted some distance from the site. And given the limitations of PUP drain plumbing, the particulates in gray water are minimal – at least if you're smart and don’t want plugged drains or clogged holding tank outlets.

Setting aside the dolt who dumps 25 to 30 gallons of gray water directly on the campsite, I believe, based on evidence, that dumping gray water in the nearby woods is harmless. In dry climates like Colorado, that precious water and the nutrients in the water are far more beneficial than any imagined harm. The state of Colorado actually even has regulations enabling property owners to use gray water for on-site irrigation (up to 400 gallons a day for single-family homes), and gray water is used for irrigation in many forms of agriculture and on golf courses. https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/wq-graywater

It's also fair to point out that many of the particulates in gray water - say coffee grounds - are beneficial for the soil: https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/com...-gardening.htm.
In many years of camping and dumping PUP gray water in the nearby woods, the food waste residue has never attracted a bear or other wildlife. In fact, I can walk my dogs right past a fresh dump of gray water, and they ignore it. Meanwhile, the same dogs will hone in on the scent of two-week old dog pee from 20 to 30 feet downwind. Make no mistake, food draws the dogs in like flies to honey, but they ignore the scent of any particulates in gray water. So the odor is not an attractant, nor is it offensive if not concentrated in one spot.

Last weekend, and in mid-March, we boondocked in the Pike National Forest. This is serious bear country, and we take all the precautions. In both situations, I dumped 4 x 5 gallon buckets of gray water in four separate locations - sharing it with four clumps of trees. No bears came...and no bears have EVER been attracted to gray water dump spots in more than 7 years of boondocking in the mountains of Colorado.

I understand that "optically" gray water seems nasty, but a septic system puts black and gray water in the ground in a concentrated location over decades, and people using septics are often on wells located about 100 feet from the leach field. By the time the effluent reaches the water table, the soils have purified it. How is gray water different? Hell, people with dogs have dog pee all over the area where they camp, and only some (including me) clean up their dogs' poop. The environmental hazard from 2 black labs FAR exceeds the hazard from gray water. And what about tent campers, who, at best, bury their solid human waste behind a tree, pee essentially anywhere, wash dishes on site, etc.? Many wrongs don’t make a right, but I don’t see gray water as a hazard in the forest.
So, I'm sincerely asking for some hard evidence that REASONABLY-HANDLED gray water is an environmental hazard as opposed to a "yuk" factor in one's mind only. Is there a solid, evidence-based reason for NOT using it to water the landscape 50 feet from the site when boondocking? If there is a compelling reason, I will change my practice.
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Old 05-09-2017, 01:41 PM   #2
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I personally have done it on my property just because I didn't want to move my rig to my sewage dump spot on my property. With that said, this was in the privacy of my own property and not in a public venue.


I see no problem personally dumping grey on the ground, but I can see how it can upset others thinking it is pee and turds. Its not like you can put a disclaimer sign saying "GREY WATER DUMPING ONLY" on your spot to let others know this.
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Old 05-09-2017, 01:47 PM   #3
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Hey Jim, not getting into the moral, but more the legal part of this.... It is against the law to dump grey water on the ground from an RV in Louisiana State Parks.

I had one of my camping friends get a ticket for it at Lake Bistineau. However, the local D.A. threw it out.

Here are the regs and you can read it on part 310.B

http://www.crt.state.la.us/Assets/Pa...Rules&Regs.pdf

310.
Litter, Sanitation and Health
A.All litter disposed of on site, shall be placed into a
proper litter receptacle in such a manner that the litter
is prevented from being carried away or deposited by the
elements upon OSP property or water bodies. Disposal
means to throw, discard, place, deposit, discharge, burn,
dump, drop, eject, or allow the escape of a substance.


B.No person shall drain or dump refuse waste including grey water from any trailer or other vehicle except in places or receptacles provided for such uses.
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Old 05-09-2017, 01:51 PM   #4
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Some try to cite environmental concerns, however I think the true issue is if everyone did it at their campsite it would accumulate faster than it was absorbed and decomposed (food waste). It becomes unsightly and wet more than anything.

You're right though, nobody thinks twice about dumping a wash bin... but open a valve and everyone gasps!

I dump according to whom I am with in my group. If we can dump gray without it draining into a campsite and without causing a scene we do.
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Old 05-09-2017, 02:10 PM   #5
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WMTIRE:
Right...and I don't in state or national parks - or forest service campgrounds. I haul it to the pit toilet or flush toilet.
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Old 05-09-2017, 02:10 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by 325BH View Post
I dump according to whom I am with in my group. If we can dump gray without it draining into a campsite and without causing a scene we do.
Here in the drier climates of the west when boondocking I will occasionally help water a tree or two. I can see why you wouldn't want to do that in places that receive more rainfall or have higher soil moisture content.
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Old 05-09-2017, 02:30 PM   #7
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How do you want your popcorn? Butter? Garlic salt? Caramel? Gray water?
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Old 05-09-2017, 02:36 PM   #8
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How do you want your popcorn? Butter? Garlic salt? Caramel? Gray water?
???
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Old 05-09-2017, 02:45 PM   #9
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When I was a kid and we went camping, my parents would wait until late at night and crack the grey water valve open at our campsite at a state park.

Yeah, not the best practice in the world, but if its just dish water, I don't see a lot of harm in it, either.
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Old 05-09-2017, 02:45 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by jimmoore13 View Post
???
He was just poking fun at the topic and where the comments could go. I am sure someone come along and give a lecture about dumping the Grey water. Either pro or con certain topics get heated.

When you see popcorn mentioned, that is a prediction that the thread may get some real back and forth comments. Yes this subject matter may require some popcorn. Lol...
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Old 05-09-2017, 02:51 PM   #11
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Caramel MR Havercamp.

My dog dumps in my yard a few times a day and that is blackwater...i leave it to the mower to dispose of it.
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Old 05-09-2017, 03:03 PM   #12
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When we got our first camper on our first trip my DW did not realize how fast the grey water tank filled. We were at a state park and at night I emptied the grey into buckets and dumped it out. We quickly learned about tote tanks and bought one. Now when we go to a site without full hookups our tank goes with us.


To the OP, living in the country I agree grey water is beneficial but if everybody did like I did in a busy campground problems could result especially if the weather has been rainy and there are puddles.
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Old 05-09-2017, 03:19 PM   #13
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Caramel MR Havercamp.

My dog dumps in my yard a few times a day and that is blackwater...i leave it to the mower to dispose of it.


For sure!

I live on the edge of town on 13 acres where my 80 lbs dog runs wild. Some friends asked me how long it took to pick up his poop. I laughed and said the mower takes care of it. They kind of curled their nose at me. LOL.
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Old 05-09-2017, 03:20 PM   #14
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....
When you see popcorn mentioned, that is a prediction that the thread may get some real back and forth comments.
We have seen the intent of the popcorn comments appear to evolve in many cases from what Wobbles described to "Looks like this is a forum fight among members showing their 'keyboard courage' and, if not now, hopefully there will be a fight soon." Kinda reminds us of the old playground challenge "Let's you and him fight!".
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Old 05-09-2017, 03:22 PM   #15
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We have seen the intent of the popcorn comments appear to evolve in many cases from what Wobbles described to "Looks like this is a forum fight among members showing their 'keyboard courage' and, if not now, hopefully there will be a fight soon." Kinda reminds us of the old playground challenge "Let's you and him fight!".


I always thought the mention of popcorn was a self fulfilling prophecy!
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Old 05-09-2017, 03:25 PM   #16
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I do not think it appropriate to dump gray water in organized camp grounds that have designated parking spots, with or without hookups. As someone else posted, that would likely be too much volume for the site. However, in disbursed camping I see no harm in dumping gray water to hydrate trees and other vegetation as it may be quite sometime between visitors and is not likely to accumulate.
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Old 05-09-2017, 03:30 PM   #17
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The OP wrote a very well researched and informed post. It has a lot of good, and logical, info. Naturally that will bring on popcorn �� comments.
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Old 05-09-2017, 03:38 PM   #18
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So many people these days don't know what ethics are and you can add manners in with that, so many don't even know simple table eticate!
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Old 05-09-2017, 03:43 PM   #19
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Let's just assume everyone urinates while showering.... does that make the gray water, blackish?
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Old 05-09-2017, 03:51 PM   #20
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If my grey tank fills at a state park, it goes on the ground. I run the hose outside of the gravel pad and the trees say "thank you".
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