How Dirty Is Your Carwash Water

Dirty Car Wash Water: Why It Should Not Be in the Stormwater System

Just because something looks spic and span doesn’t mean it is a hundred percent clean. Take, for example, a commercial vehicle like a truck. Trucks travel for miles, carrying loads of various materials. Some of these can be organic matter, such as soil or mulch. They may also bring animals, dead or alive (usually frozen).

Many move across states and territories, with trucks picking up almost anything from their surroundings. These could include microorganisms ranging from fungi to bacteria or viruses (depending on the type, they can last on the surface for days). That’s why vehicles need a lot of cleaning after their trips. They may even benefit from tools like a portable wash bay for sale. This way, they can set up cleaning areas in many places, even when they’re on the move. Wash bays also ensure that drivers, companies, and those responsible for vehicle upkeep can follow the regulations in wastewater disposal.

But to fully appreciate the purpose of wash bays, it may be best to how harmful vehicle washes can be to the environment:

1. Truck Washing Alone Is Resource Intensive


A single car may need at least 150 liters of water to wash it. In high-traffic areas, like a commercial car wash station, it will be a lot more. A bay that can accommodate around 100 cars every day will use over 11,000 liters of clean water.

Bigger vehicles, obviously, will need more water, especially one that has gone through various highways for days. Imagine the grime and dirt one has to get rid of. There’s also the actual cleaning technique used. Although high-pressure cleaning lifts stuck dirt well, it also releases a lot of water in a short period.

Why does the amount of water matter in countries like Australia, though? Although surrounded by water, the country is one of the driest places on earth. It actually doesn’t receive a lot of rainfall, and many areas are prone to drought. Freshwater, which you need for cleaning vehicles, among other tasks, constitutes just a little over a percent of the available resources here.

2. Carwash Water Can Contain a Lot of Pollutants


Australia has made it clear that it doesn’t want car wash water to end up in the stormwater system. If you’re not familiar with this, it is a management approach that lets the drainage carry stormwater and other similar types of runoff. It is not designed to carry sewage, which is another way of saying that car wash water is just as hazardous as other kinds of dirty water.

The question is why. What is in car wash water that makes it polluted? The answer is a lot. First, typical automotive cleaners contain a long list of chemicals such as chlorinated hydrocarbons, a toxic compound that is associated with a variety of illnesses that range from cancers to endocrine issues.

Even if truck washing uses the simplest methods, a.k.a. detergent or soap, it can still pollute the waters if it ends up in the stormwater system. Studies show that when they mix with bodies of water, such as lakes and rivers, they can lower the water’s water tension. Many insects will have a hard time floating or landing in the water, thereby decreasing the food supply of the marine life below.

3. Vehicles Can Also Be a Source of Plastic


On this planet, microplastics are everywhere, so much that marine animals end up inadvertently consuming them. These pollutants will then later kill them in many ways.

First, they block the digestive system, which means the creatures cannot eat or maximize the nutrients they consume. Second, they decrease the appetites of these animals, changing their feeding behavior. Plastics also disrupt their ability to grow their ideal size or reproduction.

In Australia, plastic pollution is becoming a chronic problem. According to the World Wildlife Funds (WWF), the country produces over 130 kilograms of plastic per person annually. However, less than 15 percentgoes to recycling. A lot ends up in the ocean.

Unfortunately, many also don’t know that many things can contain plastics. That includes vehicles. Plastic can be on the windshield, body, and interiors. During washing, high-pressure water cleaning or dusting can remove some of this plastic. Without anything to block the dirty water from the drain, it can end up in the stormwater system.

This isn’t to say one shouldn’t clean their vehicles. It damages the business and the vehicle, and it is illegal to drive a dirty truck. But one needs to be more conscientious to ensure dirty water doesn’t contribute to pollution.

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