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CalARVC Regroups After Holding Tank Veto

August 25, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

CalARVC logoMuch to the surprise of the California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (CalARVC), California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed bill AB 1824, which would have banned the use of certain holding tank deodorants utilized in waste facilities and toilets on boats and RVs.

The law’s intent was to protect campground owners, their guests and Californians at large from potential hazardous effects from products containing bronopol, dowicil, formaldehyde, glutaraldehyde, paraformadelhyde and paradichlorobenzene.

Debbie Sipe, CalARVC director, told RVBUSINESS.com that due to the large amount of chemical-related bills presented to the California legislature in recent years, the governor created the Green Chemistry Initiative. The initiative is a way to better address these bills through scientific research done by the Department of Toxics and Substance Control (DTSC).

The DTSC previously told CalARVC it would be taking on more broadly affected chemicals first before they addressed AB 1824, since it concerned a smaller niche market.

Sipe said CalARVC knew this was a risk when it submitted the bill for consideration, but still felt hopeful after it passed through all other levels of legislation with huge bipartisan support and only three nay votes.

“The governor vetoed it because he wants all of this to go through the Green Chemistry Initiative,” Sipe said. “We had lobbied the governor’s office and had letters to his office and we were hoping we could get through because we are a smaller niche.”

Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Thetford Corp., a manufacturer of holding tank chemicals for both the marine and RV markets, Dometic Corp., Elkhart, Ind., a Thetford competitor, and the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) opposed the bill – essentially urging the state of California to back up their reasons with science that proves these chemicals are fouling up septic systems.

In response to the veto, Kevin Phillips, Thetford’s vice president of sales and marketing, stated, “RVIA and other concerned industry organizations rallied together and helped to provide education and understanding regarding this bill. Without them, this veto, which preserves consumer choice in RV deodorants, may not have been achieved.”

CalARVC will hold a meeting to discuss its next steps and will be asking manufacturing companies to do their best to push and promote organic-based products.

“We failed in our efforts, but we hope the manufacturers will back the campground industry and help support us,” Sipe said.

CalARVC also plans to submit a list of green-based products as the recommended guide for consumers and will be adding an educational section to its website to educate people about environmentally-friendly products.

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Chem-Free Holding Tank Bill Goes to Gov

August 6, 2010 by · 2 Comments 

CalARVC logoThe California bill, AB 1824, that would ban the use of many holding tank chemicals, is swiftly on its way to its final destination – the governor’s desk.

The California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (CalARVC) is urging California campgrounds to write Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger encouraging him to sign the bill into law.

AB 1824 has made its way almost unanimously through both Houses and their respective committees with only three nay votes and one abstention, CalARVC reported. The law is meant to protect campground owners and millions of campers from the assumed negative effects from products that contain bronopol, dowicil, formaldehyde, glutaraldehyde, paraformadelhyde and paradichlorobenzene.

Background

Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Thetford Corp., a manufacturer of holding tank chemicals for both the marine and RV markets, Dometic Corp., Elkhart, Ind., a Thetford competitor, and the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) opposed the bill – essentially urging the state of California to back up their reasons with science that proves these chemicals are fouling up septic systems.

Thetford contends that use patterns – the fact that many people often dump holding tanks in a short period of time – is a more serious root cause of septic system problems.

“We do not feel that we have been shown any science that shows that the six chemicals that are being banned are going to address the problem,” said Diane Farrell, RVIA vice president of government affairs. “It seems like a remedy and yet we have not seen the right data pointing us to the problem at hand. California is a leader in the green movement, and one of the premises of that is to get chemicals into the hands of the scientists and this seems to be avoiding that process.”

CalARVC was unswayed by Thetford and RVIA’s opposition, and Dometic’s request to pull bronopol from the bill.

“Dometic has put a letter in opposition suggesting that bronopol be pulled from the bill and that is when we had to dig deeper into the science,” explained Debbie Sipe, executive director for CalARVC.

According to Sipe, the California Department of Toxics and Substance Control has looked into this question, but is coming up with inconclusive results.

“Fundamentally all chemicals, even green chemicals, have a risk associated with them,” explained Ed McKiernan, Dometic director of development for product sanitation at Dometic’s plant in Big Prairie, Ohio. “When you ban chemicals and just say ‘this is banned,’ you don’t know what all the consequences could be. In the case of this law, one of my biggest fears is that it is going to cause more difficulty and more harm to campground septic systems than if the law didn’t happen.”

In fact, McKiernan claims banning these chemicals, which come from a list assembled 10 years ago by Katherine Farrell-Poe, PhD, of the University of Arizona, will have virtually no positive effect on the environment.

“The level of bronopol that is used in a 40-gallon tank will virtually have no impact on a septic system based on studies that have been done at sewage treatment plants,” McKiernan explained. “At the time the list was put together it was thought that bronopol was another name for formaldehyde, and it’s not. There has been a lot of research done and it is clearly a different product. Bronopol is a good chemical because it is cost-effective, does a good job of odor control at high temperatures and has very minimal environmental impact.”

McKiernan said RV owners can – and often do – use alternative products that contain ammonium compounds, calcium nitrates or enzymes/bacteriological kinds of additives.

“The difficulty with those three alternatives is there are issues with biodegradability and odor control,” he said. “Nitrates are not removed when they go to the septic tank. They go into the leach field. You are going to be adding more nitrates and causing a bigger problem for the environment.”

Some of the greener products generally don’t work at high temperatures, according to McKiernan, and in the state of California where high temperatures are the norm, he maintained, fighting bad odors could become a way of life for the RV enthusiast.

When you take away products containing bronopol, McKiernan maintained, RV owners will likely start using homemade concoctions containing things like Drano or bleach, which kill all the bacteria in a septic system. “This will have a very negative environmental effect,” he said.

“We want to do the right thing environmentally, but we want to do the right thing by giving the RV owner products that work in high temperatures,” McKiernan added.

McKiernan would like to see California do an in-depth study on bronopol to gain a clearer understanding before passing the bill as it stands.

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