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City Views

City Views presents commentary from staff on the latest projects, initiatives, and successes.

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May 13

Wash Your Car the Right Way

Posted on May 13, 2015 at 10:02 AM by OCOM Specialist

Outdoor car washing is a common household task that results in high loads of nutrients, metals, and hydrocarbons as detergent-rich water flows down the street, into the storm drain, and directly to the local watersheds and streams. Perhaps the biggest limitation to proper residential car washing is the lack of knowledge regarding impacts of polluted runoff. Many people do not associate vehicle washing with local water quality and may be unaware that the discharges that enter storm drains are not treated at wastewater plants before being discharged into local waters and other bodies of water.

What can City of Falls Church residents do to help?

  • Wash your vehicle where the runoff waste water can be soaked in grass or landscaping. If you choose to wash your vehicle on grass, you may choose to drive your vehicle onto a piece of plywood or onto wood strips to minimize the impact to your lawn.
  • Use only soaps labeled “non-toxic,” “Phosphate free,” or “biodegradable.”
  • The safest soaps for the environment are vegetable-based or citrus-based.
  • Do not use acid-based engine degreasers or wheel cleaners.
  • Remove all debris and trash before washing the vehicle, including car mats.
  • If you select a washing site that will drain into the storm drain, you can block off the storm drain entrance with sandbags or divert the wash water to an area that will evaporate throughout the day.

The City’s Department of Public Works is dedicated to keeping pollutants from entering the City’s stormwater system. Water pollution prevention saves resources, time, and money by acting on the root cause of a problem. These actions help protect our local water bodies, Potomac River, the Chesapeake Bay, and the health of all living things that come in contact with these waters. For further information concerning stormwater runoff and pollutants, please contact Jason Widstrom at 703-248-5350 (TTY 711).