Why is washing at home so bad for the environment?

The Residential Car Washwater Monitoring Study of 2009 illustrates the important environmental connection between home car washes, storm water, local surface water and the Puget Sound in Washington. For years, environmentalists told the public that washing cars in the driveway is detrimental to local waterways and the Federal Way, Wash., city staff has the numbers to prove it.
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WASTES WATER. Engineering studies have shown that a 5/8" hose running at 50psi uses 14 gallons of water per minute. As many as 140 gallons of water could be used in a 10-minute home carwash, most of it wasted.

POLLUTES STORM DRAINS. Washing at home sends all the corrosive and potentially toxic substances that are on your vehicle and on the street -- asphalt, engine and brake residue, antifreeze, grease, oil, rust and asbestos -- into the public storm drain system. Storm drains are designed to handle rainwater and thus the water is not subject to any pretreatment before being released into our area's rivers and streams.

CLOGS STORM DRAINS. Storm drains were designed to handle rainwater. When vehicles are washed at home, the dirt and grime is carried into storm drains, which can clog them from working most efficiently during our rainy season.

HARMS WILDLIFE. Even if bio-friendly soap (or no soap at all) is used, hosing off a car's body and wheels at home dislodges pollutants that can end up in rivers, lakes and streams. In a 2006 study, it was shown that these chemicals can damage mucus membranes and gills in fish and wash away natural oils that help them absorb oxygen, ultimately leading to the loss of the fish.

Source:  Stormwater: The Journal for Surface Water Quality Professionals

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