Monday, August 31, 2020

How to use a portable waste water "Tote" tank

Using a portable tote tank.

First off what is a “Tote Tank” and why would you need one?

A Tote Tank or "Blue Boy"

Our Monaco motor home has a fancy electronic push button toilet. Unlike regular RV toilets it isn’t connected directly to the black tank but has a macerator built in that breaks up “Solids” then pumps that thru a smaller hose to the tank. The toilet sets how much water it uses to do this and we have found that despite adjusting how much water it uses, it still fills the black tank in about 3 days if we don’t take care.

If we are “Boondocking” (camping without full hookups) then we are severely limited to how long we can stay before we have to pack everything up and go looking for a dump station.

This is not very convenient.

Searching on my favorite Craigslist I found somebody selling a used “Tote Tank”.

This is also known as a “Blue Boy”, obviously because of the color, they come in different colors from different manufacturers.

To use this device first check it over. There is a connection on top with a cap and bayonet type lugs, a small screwed cap at the other end and finally a regular dump valve on the side.

The fill connection on top with cap in place

The dump valve on the side

The vent connection on top with cap in place

There are wheels on the bottom and a pull handle connected to the front wheels.

The handle pulls it and does the steering

Our particular tote holds about 25 gallons and one thing to be aware of is that water weighs about 8 pounds per gallon, so 25 gallons is going to come to around 200 pounds! That’s a lot of weight to be pulling so if you get the choice set up so you are on a fairly flat spot with an easy route to the place you are going to dump.

So where are you going to dump?

Many campgrounds that have water and electric only at the sites have a stand-alone dump station for grey and black water that you normally drive the RV to. You can also pull your tote over there and empty it, but if its uphill or a good distance away that could be stressful.

Look at the pull handle. See the loop for pulling it? That also slips over a tow ball like you may have on the back of your towed vehicle. If you don’t go charging over there at high speed then you can pull the tote to the dump station with a car.

This ring on the tow handle slips over the ball on your tow hitch
We currently are camping at a friends farm. They are on a septic system so we can easily pull the tote to the septic tank and by raising the manhole lid we can hang the hose in and dump.

The septic tank manhole held open with a 4 x 4 and the hose hanging in.

DON'T, PLEASE DON'T dump into ditches, ponds or fields. Obviously black water (Sewage) is going to stink but it can also attract flies, critters and get into well water. BE RESPONSIBLE, dump in a proper place. Yes that means grey water too which contains grease and food scraps from the kitchen.

So how do I go about using this thing?

I start by getting into my coveralls and putting on gloves then clearing a spot close to where my dump valves are in the rig. You don’t want to be trying to drag the 200 pounds over your water hose or electrical cord.

Next I check that the dump valve on the tote is closed. If you don’t know the history of a used unit, like ours, its a good idea to half fill it with clean water first to make sure the seals on the dump valve are tight. You don’t want to have 25 gallons of sewage leaking out with no way to stop it.

Our particular tote had plastic wheels. After a couple of uses the wheels broke due to age and we replaced them with steel wheels from the local Farm Supply store. You might want to check your for signs of cracking if its and older unit. About a $15 fix.

The steel wheels replaced the broken plastic ones 

For my first attempt I chose to dump the grey tank first because I reasoned that if something disastrous happened I’d rather be covered in soapy water than sewage. Luckily things went well!

If you have problems thinking about raw sewage or coming in contact with it then you may not be a candidate for owning a tote tank!!

Back to the task.

If you look at the dump valve on your RV and the sewer hose you will see that the dump valve has “Male” lugs and one end of the hose has “Female” a one. The other end of a regular hose has a Male lug. Now look at the fill connection on the top of the tote, it has male lugs also, so the hose can’t couple directly to the fill connection. The dump valve on the tote also has male lugs.

A typical sewer hose with male end right and female end left

This requires either a special hose with female lugs at both ends, which you can buy from a camping store, or a different approach.

On my rig I use a 90 degree elbow fitting to connect to the campground drain. The end of this will slip into the fill connection on the tote BUT it won’t lock in place so BEWARE! If you don’t hold that elbow when you pull the handle on the black tank drain the force of the “Effluence” coming down the hose will make the hose jump out of the fill connection and you will have it flowing every where. 

The 90 degree clear elbow used at campground drain connections

The elbow fits the filler but doesn't lock in BEWARE

Don’t say I didn’t warn you! The best thing is to have that special hose.

If you have a long hose make sure it is sitting on top of the tote before you start draining otherwise you will have a full tote and a hose full of sewage and not enough room in the tote for the contents of the hose. Worse still that full hose will empty as soon as you disconnect it from the tote.

Set up ready, hose sits on top to stop it filling with waste water, vent cap is off.

I find it best to use clear elbow at the tote filler so I can see how full its getting and allow room for the contents of the hose after I shut the black or grey tank drain valve.

Now to start emptying the black tank on the RV.

At this point you might think about having a garden hose close by for washing down spillages and/or yourself. You probably shouldn’t be wearing clothes you like a lot either! My rig has the outside shower connection right at the dump valves.

The wet bay on my rig with outdoor shower on left,

Ensure the tote drain valve is closed. Remove the filler cap AND THE VENT CAP, that’s the smaller screw cap on the top of the tote. The reason for this is that the water filling the tote will push air out as it fills. If you don’t have the vent open that air will force its way back out of the FILLER and spray the contents of the hose everywhere.

Vent cap off.

Connect the sewer hose to the RV dump valve and the other end to the tote. SLOWLY open the dump valve on the RV, I like to open and close it again repeatedly until I am sure everything is connected properly and there are no leaks at any of the connections. I would recommend not just pulling the valve fully opening and stepping away. Let it drain slowly and watch how the tank fills. If you set up like me with the elbow, put your foot on the elbow as you open the dump valve. Keep your hand on the valve ready to close it instantly if things go wrong. Watch the vent connection too because if the tank overflows then its going to come shooting out of the vent hole first.

I like to only fill the tank about ¾ full for several reasons. First that hose still contains several gallons of waste water, second that tote is heavy when it’s full and third I don’t want that "waste" water shooting out of the vent.

When the tote is as full as you like it, close the drain valve on the RV. Now you have to get the hose emptied. The good news is that water flows down hill, so if you carefully lift the end close to the RV drain valve above the level of the filler the water should flow to the tote. DONT just take the hose off the tote or the drain valve before emptying the hose or it will be all over the ground and your feet. You should hear the water running around in the hose so work the hose a couple of times to get it as empty as you can.

I then take the hose off the RV drain valve because ON MY RIG that connection is higher than the fill connection on the tote. I keep the open end of the hose as high as I can then lift it up vertically so the hose empties completely before taking it off the tote.

Now I put the fill connection cap and the vent cap back on the tote before I move it.

The routine I have at the farm uses 2 sewer hoses, one at the rig and one at the septic tank. That way I don’t have to keep moving the hose when I move the tank.

At the tank I lever up the manhole cover and prop it open with a piece of wood. I run the end of the hose over the lip of the manhole and position the tote so that it is a straight shot from the drain valve to the manhole and the tote is above the lip of the manhole to ensure complete draining of the tote.

Ready to empty the tote. Hose in manhole, vent cap off.

When I’m ready to drain I remove the vent cap off the tote, attach the hose to the dump valve on the tote then slowly open the dump valve and let it empty. If the vent cap is still on the tank it won't drain.

I close the dump valve and raise the hose closest to the dump valve to empty the hose before disconnection the hose. I put the vent cap back on and pull the empty tote back to the RV.

Our RV tank is about 50 gallons so depending how full it was it may take 2 or 3 trips backwards and forwards to empty it.

I like to start this routine with full black AND GREY tanks, here is why.

After the RV black tank is empty you have to deal with cleaning the tank and the hoses. If you have a full grey water tank you can empty that into the tote and take that to the dump station too. The grey water will wash out the tote and hoses so after 2 or 3 trips they will only need a minimum of rinsing with the hose at the dump station.

My Blue Boy doesn’t get a lot of use but when we occasionally need it its much better than having to pack up the RV, pull in the slides, raise the jacks, put away the hoses and cables and drive to the dump station IN MY OPINION.

No doubt there are more experienced people than me who can suggest better ways of doing this, please feel free to comment on this post so we can all benefit from your knowledge.


  1. It's not a good idea to dump directly into the tank through the manhole cover. As the water splashes in it disrupts the layering in the tank (active bacteria scum on top, sludge on the bottom and mostly clear water in between).|

    The inlet and outlets have baffles to prevent inflow from disrupting these layers. Clear water is what you want to send to the leach field - if active bacteria get out there it can eventually plug the field leading to septic failure.

    1. Another thing that I found was important is to get one of the add on level indicators that go into the tank's vent opening so that you can close the dump valve before the tank is full. If you happen to have more in your waste tank than the blue-boy can hold, you will have a hose full of waste when the tank gets full, and no place to put it. Don't ask me how I learned that lesson.

    2. Never having been on a septic system I didn't know that. Thanks for the info. I'll try and find the clean out.

  2. That's a great tip, I didn't know they had those. Thanks!