Ocean Lakes Family Campground has made headlines over the years for its investments in solar energy and recycling and promotion of electric vehicles.
Last summer, the 893-site, Myrtle Beach, S.C., park opened the first electric vehicle charging station on the Carolina coast, while also recruiting its guests to recycle more than 330,000 pounds of solid waste.
But as the nation celebrates Earth Day in April, Ocean Lakes is turning its attention to an admittedly less glamorous but equally important green initiative: the installation of locking, spring-activated sewer caps.
Turns out, Ocean Lakes, like many other low-lying campgrounds, RV parks and resorts along the East Coast, is vulnerable to heavy downpours, including tropical storms and hurricanes. But by installing watertight sewer caps at each campsite, Ocean Lakes not only can prevent floodwaters from entering its sewer system, but also, more importantly, prevent sewage from rising up through the pipelines and contaminating park grounds.
“This new system guards against sewer backups and infrastructure failures from storm surges,” said Kevin McWhiter, Ocean Lakes’ manager of maintenance and facilities, adding that the caps can also help control sewage processing costs.
“All of that water that goes into the storm water system, we pay to process that,” McWhiter said.
William Watts, president of Dunnellon, Fla.-based Enviro Design Products Inc., which is providing Ocean Lakes with its locking sewer caps, said the innovative sewer covers are a worthwhile investment, particularly as local authorities pay increasing attention to issues involving surface and groundwater contamination.
“If a park floods out, and it floods the RV sites, the state or city or county can come in and close them down (if the sewer lines are not secured),” Watts said. But by taking proactive action, parks can reduce the risk of this happening.
Locking sewer caps are the latest in a growing variety of environmentally friendly products that campgrounds, RV parks and resorts are purchasing to reduce their water and sewer consumption, while reducing potential sources of contamination.
Chicago-based RV Home & Marine Solutions has made growing sales of an environmentally friendly holding tank product called Nature-Zyme, which not only destroys odors and liquefies waste, but nourishes and rejuvenates the biological processes used in septic systems. In some cases, park operators are finding that ongoing use of Nature-Zyme can actually extend the life of their septic fields.
“What’s really encouraging for us is that our campground customers are recognizing that our holding tank product provides a greater advantage to them in the preventative maintenance of their septic systems,” said Dave Kozy, vice president and director of operations for RV Home & Marine Solutions. “In fact, continued use of Nature-Zyme can actually help remediate septic systems by moving our enzyme products into the field where they are doing their best work.”
Nature-Zyme is sold through MyRVMarket.com, though it is also being carried by a growing number of independent distributors as well as campgrounds.
But while products that enhance the performance and control of their wastewater treatment systems may be among the newest environmentally friendly products to gain attention of park operators, many private park operators continue to up their purchases of water-saving devices.
Christine Kornely, the self proclaimed “Diva of Dump Stations,” said she continues to experience growing demand for her water-saving dump station towers, which she sells through The Tower Co. in Manitowoc, Wis. Her water towers kits provide pressured water. They also include anti-siphon devices to protect water supplies.
Meanwhile, other companies are finding increased demand for coin operated and push button shower and bathroom faucet controls.
“Park operators want to make sure their water is shut off and not running and running and running,” said Pete Parafin, general manager of Fluid Manufacturing in Lodi, Calif.
Parafin added that coin-operated water control devices typically save parks about 50 percent in water and water heating costs. The devices also stop problems with bathroom flooding, which can create problems with sewer drain fields.
Paul Boutiette, president of King’s Supply Co. in Manchaug, Mass., said self-closing faucets are also effective at preventing children and other guests from leaving showers and faucets running. And they’re a good option for park operators who don’t want to charge for showers.
Boutiette also sells bathroom hand dryers, which not only save paper costs, but also reduce paper trash, trash bags and bathroom maintenance time. Removing paper towels also disarms mischievous teenagers.
“Once parks go to electric hand dryers, they usually don’t go back,” he said.
That viewpoint is shared by Wade Elliott of Kingston, Wash.-based Utility Supply Group, who broadened his product line from electrical pedestals and related accessories to include bathroom hand driers.
Kings Supply, for its part, also provides lighting timers and energy efficient high-pressure sodium lights and metal halide lamps.
Several companies are also helping campgrounds accommodate their four-legged guests with a variety of pet waste containers, environmentally friendly waste bags and related supplies, including Orlando, Fla.-based Dogi-Pot and Rabbit Hash, Ky.-based Intelligent Products Inc., which sells its products using the Mutt Mitt brand name.
Meanwhile, some parks are also taking their green initiatives even further by investing in solar panels.
One recent case in point is Auburn Gold Country RV Park in Auburn, Calif., which recently completed installation of 444 solar panels that will produce 105 kilowatts of power, which is enough to satisfy 60 percent of the park’s energy needs, according to park owner John Grant.
The solar panels are expected to be online and producing power by Earth Day, Grant said.
The solar project cost $500,000, but Grant received a $150,000 federal grant that covered more than 30 percent of the project cost. Grant is financing the rest through a program offered by Placer County. But even figuring the 6 percent cost of financing, Grant expects to break even in less than a year.
“It’s basically a no-brainer,” Grant said, adding that the environmental benefits from the project are enormous.
During its first year of operation, Grant’s solar project is expected to offset 212,000 pounds of carbon dioxide; 145 pounds of nitrogen oxide, a leading cause of smog; 36 pounds of sulphur dioxide, a leading case of acid rain; and 42 pounds of particulates. “These offsets are because this power doesn’t have to be generated elsewhere,” he said.
Private parks are also stepping up their investments in recycled materials, according to Robb Jones, sales manager for Jamestown Advanced Products in Jamestown, N.Y.
The company still sells more wooden picnic tables than tables made with recycled plastic, but Jones said demand for the recycled products are growing. “Tables made with recycled plastic lumber don’t chip or splinter over time,” he said.