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The Perceived Environmental Impact of Car Washing Essay

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The Perceived Environmental Impact of Car Washing

Jen Oknich Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District 9-04-02

Introduction Washing a car may impact the environment in ways vehicle owners have never realized. A recent article in Stormwater, a surface water quality journal, has raised interest over the possible affects of domestic car washing. Many particles and chemicals have been found in wash waters, but the concentration and severity of these in a diluted state are usually extrapolated, or not considered. A peer-reviewed study on the contents of domestic car wash waters cannot be found. Instead, studies such as those on commercial car wash or highway runoff contaminants are commonly applied. Little information exists to substantiate claims, but nonetheless many cities in the USA and Canada have taken action, especially against detergents. Concerned governments and organizations hope to minimize or eliminate potential aesthetic, physical, chemical and biological threats of car washing. What Has Some Cities and Agencies Concerned Assuming hand washing in a car wash facility can be likened to hand washing in a driveway, a 1999 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study on Class V Injection Wells is applicable. EPA found many washed-off pollutants to be in excess of primary and secondary maximum contaminant levels (MCLs). This study is very similar to residential washes, as they are manually operated, and no undercarriage or engine cleaning usually happens (see Figure 1). Figure 1: EPA Concerns with Car Wash Waters Item Exceeds Primary Exceeds Primary Exceeds Secondary MCL HAL MCL Antimony* Yes Yes Arsenic* Yes Yes Beryllium* Yes Yes Cadmium* Yes Yes Lead* Yes Yes Thallium* Yes Yes Aluminum Yes pH Yes Iron Yes Manganese Yes Chloride May exceed May exceed Naphthalene May exceed May exceed TDS May exceed May exceed Tetrachloroethene May exceed May exceed * All six of these elements are considered toxic (Phoenix College, 1998). L. Soerme and R. Lagerkvsitb, in...

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