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California has banned the use of certain holding tank chemicals.

CampCalNow RV Park and Campground Alliance (CampCalNOW) has secured the passage of legislation that will ban the sale and use of RV holding tank products with formaldehyde and other chemicals beginning in 2022, according to a press release.

The legislation, Senate Bill 317, was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom on Thursday (Sept. 26).

“This is a major victory not only for California campgrounds, but for the environment and for our groundwater supplies,” said Dyana Kelley, president of CalCalNow. “Our campground members were being held responsible for costly testing and penalties when groundwater was shown to have dangerous levels of chemicals from these products.”

Kelley said other campground industry associations across the country are likely to pursue similar legislation.

While effective at reducing holding tank odors, formaldehyde also kills the beneficial bacteria used to digest human waste in septic systems. When too much formaldehyde-laden waste is dumped into septic systems, it can cause the septic systems to fail and potentially contaminate groundwater supplies.

California’s campground industry association has repeatedly sought to ban the use of formaldehyde in RV holding tank products in California, which the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the state Department of Toxic Substances Control have cited as a key cause of septic system failure, which can threaten groundwater supplies.

In fact, the EPA’s Region 9 Groundwater Office issued a public warning 20 years ago about the dangers of using RV holding tank products with formaldehyde.

“When chemicals, such as formaldehyde, are added to septic systems,” the EPA wrote, “they can cause bacteria in the system to die. When this happens, the septic system cannot treat waste effectively. Solids that are allowed to pass from the septic tank, due to inadequate or incomplete treatment, may clog the leach field. Furthermore, clogged systems may send inadequately treated sewage to the surface, threatening the health of people or pets who come into contact with it. Or it may percolate to groundwater, where the chemicals and untreated wastewater could contaminate nearby drinking water wells, rivers and streams.”

In 2010, the California association sponsored legislation, Assembly Bill 1824, to ban the use of formaldehyde in RV holding tank products, as well as other non-biodegradable chemicals, including bronopol, dowicil, glutaraldehyde, paraformaldehyde and para-dicholorobynzene. It was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was pushing for all chemical issues to be managed through his new Green Chemistry Initiative.

“What has changed now is that California’s nine regional water boards have gained a greater appreciation for the threat these chemicals pose to campgrounds and to our groundwater supplies,” Kelley said. “Chemical holding tank product manufacturers also recently agreed not to fight California’s legislation, so long as they were given a couple of years before the ban took place.”

Kelley noted that plenty of environmentally friendly, enzyme or bacteria-based RV holding tank products are available today that actually help improve septic system performance in campgrounds and pose no risks to water supplies.

Based in Auburn, the CampCalNow RV Park and Campground Alliance is the trade group that represents campgrounds, RV parks and RV resorts in California. For more information, please visit www.Camp-California.com.