THE BUZZ 3: Black Water Boo-Boo

By on September 20, 2016

An RVer caught dumping at Emily’s Pond raises questions about mobile traveler ethics.

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The scene of the stinky crime. (Photo: Jake Nichols)

JACKSON HOLE, WY – An RVing family found themselves in trouble Sunday after they dumped raw human waste onto the parking lot at Emily’s Pond. Thanks to an alert eyewitness, the family, allegedly from England, was later caught by Teton County Sheriff’s deputies and cited. The incident is of heightened concern given the area is heavily used and in close proximity to the Snake River. It also raises concern of how often similar incidents might be occurring in the valley.

Eric Greenwood was walking his dogs on the levy with his four-month-old daughter in tow when he returned to his vehicle at the parking lot around 12:30 Sunday afternoon. He noticed a Cruise America RV parked oddly in the corner of the lot.

“When I got closer, I saw one man doubled over throwing up out of the RV. Another man in the driver’s side had a septic hose in his hand,” Greenwood said. Then the stench hit him. “I was overcome with the smell of human waste. It smelled worse than any Porta-Potty or outhouse I have ever been in. Sheer, raw septic waste—they literally just dumped it all on the ground right by the pond and drove away.”

Greenwood memorized the tags and called the sheriff’s department. He followed the RV out of the parking lot and into town when deputies caught up with the RVing family about eight minutes after the incident, Greenwood estimated. Greenwood was told later by officers that they were able to confirm a “significant amount of human waste” at the site and that the perpetrators would be cited.

Lt. Slade Ross of the Teton County Sheriff’s Office said the family was compliant after being cited and paid restitution for the clean up. He said the family panicked when the black water tank began backing up into the RV. “They didn’t know what to do so they dumped a little out,” Ross said. He described the incident as fairly minor.

As far as how often this might happen in a resort area filled with hundreds of RVers passing through daily, Ross said, “I would not say it’s common. We have dealt with it in the past but it’s not common.”

Teton County Public Health’s Rachel Wheeler said she was notified by the sheriff’s office of the incident and asked for her department’s advice on what to do about it. Wheeler said she consulted with environmental health specialists and received the OK to have Macy’s Services perform the cleanup.

“The area was fenced off so people would not track through it. It was a small area—three square feet or so,” Wheeler said. “We feel confident in Macy’s ability to clean up the spill. We don’t believe there was enough dump for [any leakage into the Snake River] to occur.”

Carlin Girard, a water resource specialist with the Teton Conservation District, called the dumping a shame, but downplayed any health concerns that could result even if the waste were dumped into Emily’s Pond or the Snake River.

“Something like this probably would not even be recognized by any water quality testing,” Girard said. “However, human waste is one of the easiest ways for someone to get sick from water. We talk about wildlife and dogs because that is more common, but when considering pathogens like bacteria, viruses, and other types of cestodes or tapeworms, human-to-human transfer is actually easier than wildlife-to-human transfer. That’s just because humans are the proper host for those pathogens. You have a one hundred percent ability for those pathogens to pass. It’s definitely an issue and one that anybody would take very seriously.”

Girard said he felt confident in Public Health’s handling of the incident. PJH

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