Thursday, June 4, 2015

Can Dirty Cars Save the Bay?

Maybe. But maybe clean ones can too.

Clean cars, dirty bay? Yes, some car washes are illegal
Mark Maguire was planning a car wash to raise money so that local Cub Scouts, sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, could attend summer camp. Little did he know that his benefit car wash, if not done correctly, could be in violation of the county’s illicit discharge ordinance.
I'm often tempted to stop and let the girls athletic teams wash the car, but somehow they're never there when I really need them. Like right after the snow and salt are finally gone from the road in early spring.

It’s a local law that often gets overlooked this time of year as school groups, athletic associations and others hold weekend car washes to raise money.

“The county’s illicit discharge ordinance, adopted in 1997, prohibits discharging anything that is not entirely composed of stormwater to the storm drain system,” explained Lorne Field, environmental outreach coordinator with the Chesterfield County Environmental Engineering Department. The ordinance was required by the state in order for the county to receive its permit to operate the storm sewer system.
This is in Virginia, just FYI, but similar regulations apply in Maryland.

Luckily for Maguire, his wife happened upon a flier that explained how the simple and common act of washing a car can be detrimental to our local waterways, the James River and even the Chesapeake Bay. The flier, “Run Off Equal Ruin,” included a photo of someone washing a car. Maguire called the phone number on the flier that connected him to Field.
Though most people might have been surprised and perturbed about an ordinance that defines how you can wash cars, Maguire was not.
It wouldn't apply to us at home, anyway, since runoff from our driveway drains first into our yard, and then an empty forested lot. But mostly these days we're content to go to a commercial car wash, where they recycle the water.

“It’s kind of normal to me,” said Maguire. “You always see a sign about entering the Chesapeake watershed on the parkway … as well as things like ‘don’t dump stuff down the storm drain because it eventually winds up in the river, which winds up in the bay.’”
Though not surprised by the ordinance, Maguire was curious about how he was supposed to wash cars.
 That's a good question.
According to Field, groups can borrow a car wash kit from the county which captures and diverts wash water away from storm drains and creeks, or they “can employ another means of diversion if they wish or simply wash cars in a grassy field.”
OK, I like that. As long as they are going to make it illegal to discharge the wash water, I approve of them going the extra mile and making equipment available so that they can legally hold car washes to raise money for charity. I wonder if they've started discriminating between approved and unapproved charities yet, though.

Wombat-socho checks in from his new home town with "Rule 5 Sunday: Welcome To Las Vegas."

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