Benefit car washes may be illegal
Most junior league sports and high school organizations hold car washes, but in addition to being easy, popular, and lucrative, these fund raisers are also illegal, says Jenny Gaus, Woodinville's Surface Water Management Coordinator.
They don't break any business laws, but they do violate local water quality codes and do significant damage to local streams and rivers, Gaus said.
Wash water contains dirt, road grime, oil, and soap, which flow into storm drains. These drains run to the nearest natural body of water. The drains are designed to carry uncontaminated rainwater, but when wash water gets into the system, soap, oil, and other toxins are carried to the place where they do the most damage.
Gaus said few, if any, car wash groups know they are doing harm to the environment. But she said there are ways to avoid the damage.
The simplest is washing cars on grass or gravel areas. Another is to create a catch-basin for the water, and later have it pumped into the sewer. Bothell has a rig especially for this purpose, but Woodinville does not. Gaus says she wants to get one for the city.
Gaus believes knowledge is the key to solving this problem. Understanding should cause organizations to correct the problem themselves, she said.