Preventing Water Pollution

Many people don't know that washing vehicles on pavement causes harm to local waterways. Water entering storm drains, unlike water that enters sanitary sewers, does not undergo treatment before it is discharged. So, when cars are washed on streets, parking lots and driveways, that dirty water eventually winds up in rivers, streams and lakes. Washing one car may not seem to be a problem, but collectively, car-washing activity adds up to big problems for our waterways and aquatic life.

A study by the City of Federal Way (Washington) found that residential car washing led to the following being released into their storm sewer system:

  • 190 gallons (719 liters) of gasoline, diesel and motor oil
  • 400 pounds of phosphorus and nitrogen
  • 60 pounds of ammonia
  • 2,200 pounds of surfactants
  • 3,000 pounds of solids

This is the total annual release, and only for their community of 62,000 passenger cars and trucks! With more than 300 million registered passenger vehicles in North America, the enormity of the pollution problem becomes obvious.