• Sep 23, 2008


If residents in several cities in Clark County, Washington want to get their cars clean, they could soon be forced to do it at retail car washes. According to an employee at the Washington state Department of Ecology, the state wants "people to make the connection of 'what goes on the street goes into the creek.'" And soapy car wash residue is something they don't want in the creek.

The state wants the cities to come up with a way to keep any water that isn't rain water from getting into the environment without being treated. The cities, about a dozen in all, say that's crazy, and have threatened to sue the state for trying to enact measures that exceed federal Clean Water Act.

The state suggests that if people still want to clean their cars, that they don't use soap with phosphorus, and wash their cars on gravel or grass where the water will be filtered by the soil. That's ironic, because part of the state's measure also requires sprinkler water to be captured and treated. Residents could always try the state's other option: don't use soap at all.

[Source: Next Autos, Photo CC | Credit: Koop]



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  • 49 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      When I was growing up my neighbour used to wash her car in the driveway. The years of rythmic gymnastics had granted her the shape that would previously has earned it statues in honor of. I dearly remember the joy that came on a hot summer day wherein soap and water would combine with cut offs and a tanktop.

      Sad that should this trend catch on my son will never have the same experience....
      • 6 Years Ago
      All the people bitching here about this crack me up. I don't seem to remember reading anything in the US constitution guaranteeing your "right" to wash your car at home. I am the last person to side with the eco-nutjobs but being that I am part of the carwash industry I have to agree with it. It has been said before in this thread but everyone seems to have ignored it: IT ISN'T SOAP that they are worried about (for the most part anyway). The pollutants that cover the surface of every vehicle such as: oil, grease, elements from brake linings, rust, benzene, chromium, acids and ammonia to name a few are what are being washed directly into the water supply. Not to mention how much more water is wasted washing a car at home compared to a car wash facility. It's not rocket science people.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Waterless car wash would solve the concern. Todays waterless products are mainstream. My company and other make these and they work well with very little or zero environmental impact and no, they don't scratch cars. Most of the good ones contain materials to surround and absorb the dirt and dust as soon as it is applied. You can clean a car better, leave it with a coat of wax, do it faster then using a bucket and soap and there is no worry about run off and the mettalic bits from brake dust, benzene's and other pollutants thaty attach to a car and go down the drain when washed. Lastly, a loot of people don't even know that the materials used in many soaps like the surfactants will pollut the water systems and cannot easliy be removed or detected.
      • 6 Years Ago
      It all comes down to this...

      Are we free or are we not?

      I think I need to buy a new flag to fly under the Stars and Stripes. Don't Tread On Me.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Washington State? Isn't that the state that wound up with a wacko liberal Democrat Governor after she stole the election with multiple votes from individuals, not to mention capturing the dead people vote? Beware of liberals because they are coming for you and me.
      • 6 Years Ago
      RBW: You have no idea what communism or facism are, do you? Go read a book.

      MW definitions:
      fascism: a tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control.
      communism: a theory advocating elimination of private property.

      I presume that not following these "standards", if enacted, means citizens are either fined or go to jail. Sounds like facism fits.

      If you presume the state's desire is essentially to centrally administrate all water sources as it sees fit (for the betterment of all, comrade!), it sounds like communism fits.

      Maybe you should try reading a dictionary.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Didn't take long for someone to spout a 'ism', did it? Look beyond the foolish human contrived textbook definitions, and take a logical approach to life. Man am I glad I took the science major route.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I don't wash the car myself much anymore, but I have never used soap; just fresh, constantly running (on low) water from the hose. This habit was formed in the days when you didn't use soap because it "would take the wax off."

      With the exception of bugs, tar, etc. I think you can get by fine without soap.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Is there no options as far as biodegradable soaps and washes? I understand the issue and respect the problem of polluted water sources, but it seems that considering all the variables for pollution sources, I would think soapy cars come next to last as far as environmental impact. What next, a ban on shampoo?
        • 6 Years Ago
        To the informed and interested criticism: All US-bashing aside (I can't help it, I *am* European afterall ;)) if you are really interested, check the MCL values in the drinking water act. One just *might* get the impression that they are a tiny bit influenced by lobby groups in that certain "convenient" maximum containment levels are very low to make the whole thing appear strict and safe while others are ridiculously high. Glad to see though that since 2006 you finally have a serious MCL on arsenic in your drinking water :).
        Other aspects include the technology and concepts of the water treatment processes and so on.
        It's a big and complicated subject and I meant no offense, but believe me, it is a good thing if authorities are finally starting to look after your water supplies, that's all I wanted to say.


        To the somewhat less informed replies (hey, AngeloD ;)):
        "Last time I checked it was still prohibited to swim in or eat any of the few remaining fish species found in most of the length of the Rhine."

        Maybe try checking every couple of decades then, instead of once per century. Gives you more current data ;). After we had basically killed of the Rhine by the 1980s, the multi-nation emergency measures completely transformed that river. Today it is among the cleanest and healthiest rivers considering the amount of industry and shipping it has to handle.
        Hell, we've had *salmon* back in recent years all the way up to the upper rhine valley! There are now stairways and escalators for fish at every damn dam and lock. The emergency model can now predict concentration levels in the case of accidents at any location along the river and automatically alerts authorities in all countries along the Rhine. We are deconstructing the straight concrete and brick banks and recreate the natural flooding zones. Trust me, we've come a long way since the horror stories of the '80s. The Rhine is still heavily used by ships, factories, power plants and so on, but it is cleaner, safer and more pleasant now than it has been in over 100 years.

        "BTW- German cars are generally unreliable, hugely over-rated crap as well but that's a different topic."
        Ouch, that really hurt. Now we only need something about beer and/or WW2 to kick me while I'm down.
        • 6 Years Ago
        ""The US has some of the worst water quality among all industrialized western countries both in terms of the contamination of ground water and in terms of the resulting tap water quality.""


        Absoute B.S. that you just now made up.

        You haven't a clue as to what you're going on about.

        In fact, the USA has vastly better ground and surface water quality by any measure than does western Europe.

        The USA has done far more from a regulatory framework (Clean Water Act. etc.) to clean up its streams, rivers, lakes and wetlands than has any part of Europe.

        The Seine referred to as "The Sewer of Europe" ring a bell?

        Last time I checked it was still prohibited to swim in or eat any of the few remaining fish species found in most of the length of the Rhine.

        BTW- German cars are generally unreliable, hugely over-rated crap as well but that's a different topic.
        • 6 Years Ago
        In answer to your question about options to traditional car washing, the answer is yes - there is an option. I use it on my vehicles, and it not only saves on water, but it keeps my car cleaner longer by ionizing the surface. Dust and dirt slide right off.
        The product is called EcoShine, and is currently beginning to take off here in Oregon. And since there is absolutely no water used in the application, runoff into rivers and streams is eliminated completely.
        It's also 100% safe for the environment. I've been told you could drink the stuff and it wouldn't hurt you. I haven't tried, if you were going to ask.
        Check it out at www.ecoshineonline.com
        • 6 Years Ago
        lol.. why are you guys arguing about water anyway? cleanest water? u shld check out NEWater..
        • 6 Years Ago
        Car washing on lawns and driveways has long been banned here in Germany. It's not only the soap that you don't want in the soil, it is also the oil and other lubricants of which even tiny amounts getting into the soil untreated are a huge problem environmentally.
        The US has some of the worst water quality among all industrialized western countries both in terms of the contamination of ground water and in terms of the resulting tap water quality.

        So while I admit that the ban sucks, it does make sense and is necessary.

        Here in Germany, in addition to automated car wash, they offer coin-operated car wash booths for those who love to wash their car themselves. The booths are equipped with high-pressure water hoses with attached brushes and all kinds of other tools, so anybody can go on a personal car hygiene frenzy as much as he wants. Can't remember if I've ever seen one of those in the US.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I changed my oil yesterday, I just poured the used crap on some orphaned children with disabilities.

        By the way, this is nonsense. America is a car-centric culture, what are they going to try to ban next?
        • 6 Years Ago
        The soap has to be the only reason.Rain would just wash all the oil and whatnot into the river ANYWAY?

        Also, "the worst water in the western industrialized world". Even if you ignore the fact that the US is a younger country and we didn't have enough time to pollute our water sources as badly as europe did before clean water laws came about, you still have to consider that the US has a lot more wilderness than most other western countries. By default we'd still have more clean rivers and streams.

        • 6 Years Ago
        @Ls2/LS7:
        I just looked it up:
        The emergency program for the Rhine started in 1987 after the last and biggest chemical accident in 1986 had killed almost all biological life in the upper Rhine. By the end of the program in 2003 of the 63 native fish types in the Rhine all but the sturgeon had returned and of these all but the eel were edible. So you can certainly go ahead and catch yourself a salmon here.
        • 6 Years Ago
        @ AngeloD: Ancient Chinese wisdom for you:

        "Man who jump from bridge in Paris is in Seine"
        • 6 Years Ago
        Markus:
        Could you please provide some info? I am actually interested (you didn't see me attacking you). But you just make more assertions and don't have any backing. Could you please provide some or hints on how to get some?

        Your story about the Rhine is interesting, it mirrors the Lake Erie situation here. But you say you have salmon now (and lots of them), are they safe to eat? There's a big gulf between habitable and safe for food.

        Sandok: (and this goes for Markus too)
        The US is the size of Europe and then some. You say Switzerland has great water? So does the Lake Tahoe area. And that's not even counting Alaska at all!

        If you take the worse in the US and compare to the worst in European countries, the US will be worse than many of them, simply because the US is drawing a much larger area, you'll have greater extremes in a large area than in a small one.

        And are you measuring water quality by taste? That's not a great measure. Copper tastes awful even in tiny concentrations but isn't bad for you, for example.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Markus,

        It's the horribly filthy German water that makes German beer taste so darn good!
        • 6 Years Ago
        Yes, we have coin-op manual car washes all over the US. We have had them for at least 35 years.

        Do you have more data on this assertion that the US has poor water quality? What kind of info do you mean? Do you mean as an average? Or do you mean that the worst water in the US is worse than many other western countries?
        • 6 Years Ago
        @Marcus,

        I don't think that's correct. I remember reading recently that Chicago was one of the best tap water supplies on the face of the earth.
        • 6 Years Ago
        AngeloD, if you think the US has good water, you've obviously not travelled a lot.

        It's much better than some places, I do agree, and it varies from state to state but it's far from great.

        Same goes for most of Europe, France isn't a palce I drink tap water readily. Switzerland on the other hand, best water ever. EVER.
        • 6 Years Ago
        @LS2LS7

        I'm sorry to disappoint you, but I do not have a complete study ready. It's not my field of expertise (I'm a hydraulics/fluid mechanics major, not a water resources expert) and my assumption is just the result of years of anecdotes, factlets, a table here a figure there, sidenotes by professors etc. at college. The arsenic levels are a classic, another one is the apparently heavy use of chloride as a cheap substitute for proper water treatment. I'm not prepared for an in-depth discussion and don't have the time or interest to put together that stuff so that it would hold up to a discussion. Sorry, I don't expect you to accept that of course. I probably shouldn't have brought it up. New approach: let's try to find a common denominator one step before the one above:

        Contamination of ground water *is* a serious issue, no matter if we can agree on whose water is better. And whatever it is people wash off their cars, it will eventually either drain into the ground underneath their lawn and reach the ground water or it will run down their driveway into a sewer and end up at a sewage treatment plant.
        Both of these options however are *not* private affairs of freedom-loving car-washing driveway owners. If the tensides of the soap and the oil and whatnot end up in the sewer it makes the sewage treatment more expensive and complicated because the treatment facilities are meant to deal with the biological contamination of sewage primarily. If it ends up underneath the lawn it will eventually get into the ground water and make the drinking water treatment more complicated and expensive. Both of these potential problems are ultimately paid for by the tax payer and therefore the authorities who are charged with providing these services using the taxpayers money have cause to mingle into these car-washing affairs. That doesn't make it unpatriotic, un-libertarian or un-american.


        Regarding the Rhine: I'll try to find out how edible the salmon are. It is however already a "breaking news" type of event that they actually show up at all this far upriver after all that time. So important in fact, that you would probably be shot for trying to eat one even if they are edible ;). You don't even want to know how much the "fish bypass stairways" and automatic fish escalators and stuff that we now build around every single lock and hydro-dam actually costs :D.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Washington, Oregon, California, maybe they can secede from the union and call themselves The People's Republic of Pacific States" because it sure looks like that is the way they want to govern.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Great... the Feds don't even want to regulate nasty perchlorate in drinking water because W is determined to prove that he's the most corporate-friendly president ever and it might cost some of his big donors a few bucks to clean up the messes they've made.
      http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2008/09/22/epa_to_decline_regulating_chemical_in_water/

      And Washington State goes just as crazy in the opposite direction. Sheesh, just specify biodegradable soap.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Gee, I use about 4 tablespoons full of soap in the bucket when washing my car. Arrest me for environmental terrorism. How stupid.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I live in Orange County CA and we already have that ordinance! It is STUPID. Part of my weekend was spent washing my car, but no more! You can get a $1500.00 fine. When I first heard of the ordinance I was livid! If people are going to inact laws like this then they should have places where we can wash our cars. Going to the car wash runs about $18.00 for a full wash, just ridiculous!
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