York City residents can no longer wash cars with soap — at least in areas where the sudsy water runs directly into storm drains.
City Council passed a series of amended ordinances Aug. 16 that ban soaps and detergents from being discharged into its stormwater system — changes that were required by the state Department of Environmental Protection.
"We all have to live together and live in our environment. As our effects on the environment emerge, we have to change," York City Mayor Michael Helfrich said. "Our livelihoods count on water."
Lettice Brown, the city's stormwater manager, said areas that have drains built to take runoff to treatment facilities — such as commercial garages and commercial carwashes — may still use soaps. But she noted that the city's storm sewers empty directly into creeks and streams, meaning that anything that flows into them bypasses such treatment.
"Entire ecosystems may die if we don’t watch what we are doing," she said.
Residents may only use soap to wash cars if the runoff goes into their lawns, patches of grass, or gravel and does not flow into a city storm water sewage drains, according to a press release. Grass and gravel that do not allow runoff act as a natural filtration system for chemicals, Brown said.
Brown recognizes that not everyone may have a lawn to wash their car on or be able to pay for a car wash if they want to use soap. She is working on solutions to help make car washing resources more accessible and encourages residents to reach out to the stormwater management office if they have no place to wash their cars in compliance with the ordinance amendments.
Go to Brown's house and use her lawn!