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Law Would Ban RV Holding Tank Chemicals

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April 7, 2010 by   Leave a Comment

CalARVC logoEditor’s Note: The California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds(CalARVC) is strongly in favor of recently introduced legislation to ban RV holding tank products that contain several chemicals because they can disrupt septic systems and harm groundwater supplies. The alternative is for consumers to use environmentally friendly holding tank products. This legislation, if approved, could set the stage for similar legislative efforts across the country.

California Assemblyman Bill Monning, D-Santa Cruz, has introduced legislation that would force the state to ban the use of six chemicals that have proven to be capable of damaging various types of septic systems while posing significant threats to groundwater supplies.

The legislation, AB 1824, would ban the use of holding tank products containing bronopol, dowicil, formaldehyde, glutaraldehyde, paraformaldehyde and para-dichlorobenzene, according to a news release.

“We fully support this legislation and think it will encourage businesses to step up their marketing and distribution of environmentally friendly holding tank products in California,” said Debbie Sipe, executive director of the California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (CalARVC), which has spent the past five years trying to find ways to protect its members’ septic systems and nearby groundwater supplies without forcing private park operators to become “potty police.”

California, in fact, has a blemished record of enforcing holding tank regulations.

In 2005, the State Water Resources Control Board sent cease and desist letters to 25 RV parks and campgrounds in Southern California notifying them that they must not allow RVs to empty waste into their septic systems. In addition, the state closed down at least two state park dump stations. At the same time, the state board was writing new septic system regulations that would make it illegal for RV parks and campgrounds to allow “deleterious or biocide” products to be dumped into septic systems.

“In order to prevent RV parks and businesses from having to play ‘potty police’ with their guests, we asked the California Department of Substance Control to review its 1979 law banning toxic, non-biodegradable chemicals from RV & boat holding tanks,” Sipe said.

After pressing the issue for three years, the Department of Toxic Substances Control sent Sipe a letter in April 2008 confirming that the formaldehyde used in RV holding tank products was prohibited under state law. It took the state agency another nine months to complete a fact sheet explaining the prohibition under the 1979 law, which it posted on its website. Sipe sent copies of the posting to manufacturers and distributors of chemically based holding tank products.

But after a single company disputed the state’s findings, Sipe said the Department of Toxic Substances Control buckled and removed the fact sheet from its website, signaling that it wasn’t serious about enforcing the 1979 law.

Sipe then sent letters to the CEOs of major retailers and distributors of chemically based holding tank products, including Wal-Mart and Camping World, asking them to refrain from selling chemical-based RV holding tank products in California.

Sipe suggested these companies could make a positive statement on this issue by announcing their decision to ban chemically based holding tank products and instead carry environmentally friendly holding tank products before April 22nd 2009, when the nation was to celebrate Earth Day.

No one took her up on the offer.

That may change, however, if Assemblyman Monning’s proposed legislation banning the use of six non-biodegradable chemicals in holding tank products becomes law.

“Perhaps after this legislation is approved,” Sipe said, “companies that market chemically-based holding tank products will see that they have more to gain, economically and otherwise, by marketing and distributing environmentally friendly holding tank products.”

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