Friday, July 10, 2009

Some people still singin’ the car wash blues

Car Washing poster
Summer’s here. The time when most of us want to drive a clean car. Well, most of us, maybe not all of us. I have a silver car that doesn’t show the dirt, so I’m not too much of a clean car freak, but I do like clean windows and good working wiper blades.

I digress…

Today Associated Press reporter Phuong Le writes an update about our beloved car washing.

About a year ago, we had a lot of misinformation going around. People thought the state was banning residential car washing, which was not true.

Phuong got the story right. No, we’re not banning car washing. There is nothing wrong with washing your car. But where you wash it makes all the difference for our salmon, for Puget Sound, and for the rivers, lakes and streams near you.

We are in an education mode because you see, the soapy water is toxic to fish. Even biodegradable soapy water is toxic -- as toxic as some industrial pollution.

For a lot of us, car washing in the driveway is right up there with baseball, motherhood and apple pie.

You probably know that storm drains (street-side drains) empty into a series of underground storm drain pipes. This water is not treated. The underground pipes are essentially part of our watershed system that drains into our rivers, lakes and Puget Sound.

This morning, a producer of a Seattle radio program called me and asked to interview me. I said sure.

The radio host made it clear that he understands why only rain should go down the drain. Would you or your kids want to swim in the soapy water or let your dog drink it? No. He agreed with us.

We suspect we’ll get more media calls in the coming days. That’s good if it helps all of us remember that whatever runs down the street or road and into the storm ditch ends up poisoning the water that we and the salmon need for our survival.

You have good, clean options for washing your car. We require by law commercial car washes to collect and treat soapy water and grime from our cars. Or if you prefer to wash your car at home, that patch of grass in the yard just might be craving a drink of water right now. And in the process, it will filter out the soapy pollutants before the rinse water reaches the water we need for drinking and for salmon.

For a hoot, watch this educational video about driveway car washing posted by the city of Pullman. (Scroll down on that page. It’s called "Stormwater video #1")

Ecology has educational materials on our Washington Waters – Ours to Protect website. Check them out!

Here’s to your shiny ride! Will I be seeing “Wash Me” on your back side of your ride this summer? Maybe so, maybe not!

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