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June 1, 2010 at 12:40 am #595005
Question: Is it legal (or even ethical) in the city of Seattle to wash you car in the driveway? Doesn’t the dirty SOAPY water just end up in the storm drains, and thus directly, and untreated get dumped into Elliot Bay?June 1, 2010 at 3:23 am #695530
I thought I had a quick source to find out the answer, but couldn’t locate it.
I can’t remember if it’s technically illegal, but I think it would be considered “unethical”, for the very reason you point out.
Apparently some, if not all, car wash places have drains that either don’t empty into the storm drains, or perhaps have some way of treating the dirty water.
MikeJune 1, 2010 at 3:32 am #695531
Agreed with Mike; it’s not illegal, just not ethical. Ideally, one should either take the car to a car-washing facility or wash the car on a lawn at home (so the water soaks into the ground).June 1, 2010 at 5:00 am #695532
The Velvet BulldogParticipant
Unfortunately, it’s not good for the environment to wash our cars at home at all (which sucks because that’s what’s cheap and convenient.)
The oil and dirt that is on our cars (and toxic to aquatic habitats) gets washed into storm drains, some of which deliver untreated runoff into Puget Sound or Lake Washington, depending on where you live. Even if you were to wash your car on the lawn or a gravel driveway, those toxins will leach through to our groundwater supply. This is why car wash companies such as Brown Bear make such a big deal of treating the waste water that comes off of the cars–it absolutely makes a difference to the runoff that ends up in our beloved bodies of water.
Stormwater runoff from roads has become a major issue for our watershed. Part of the reason for restoring Thornton Creek up in Northgate was to treat stormwater runoff before it hit Lake Washington.
So, this is one more thing to consider as we become more conscious of our effects on the environment–washing cars at places that treat the runoff–or learning to live with dirtier cars. (And wouldn’t you know, I just got a WHITE car–bleh.)June 1, 2010 at 2:12 pm #695533
I wish we had all the car washing places other cities do. In Las Vegas, the car washes are CHEAP (whether or not the should be in the desert is another issue) and everywhere. In a town outside of Dallas it is illegal to wash your car in your driveway, BUT, there are fabulous car washes for about $3 with free vacuuming!June 1, 2010 at 4:51 pm #695534
True that washing your car in the street is very bad for water quality. Washing it on a lawn is a better alternative; while it doesn’t filter out all the pollutants, it at least allows the surfactants in the soap a chance to break down before they enter the stormwater drains and from there the nearest body of water. The soap itself is not usually highly toxic, but can strip the protective oils from birds’ feathers if the birds are swimming through soapy water.
Washing your car at a car wash where the water gets treated is the best practice. And if you’re looking for other ways to minimize your personal additions to stormwater pollution, be sure you are keeping your car from leaking oil and use it as little as possible (tire rubber and brake filings are also sources of toxins in stormwater); don’t use chemical pesticides or fertilizers that can be rinsed away by rain, and don’t allow your pets to poop outside without cleaning it up (believe it or not, dog AND cat poop is a significant source of fecal coliform contamination in Seattle’s urban streams!).
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