Car wash: Guidelines for protecting the environment

From staff reports:

With summer fast approaching, Federal Way residents were reminded to properly dispose of the wastewater that results from a classic American summer tradition — the car wash.

In a May 10 press release, the city reminds residents that improper disposal of car wash wastewater is “harmful to the environment and violates federal, state, and local pollution laws.”

According to the city, improperly disposed wastewater “runs into storm drains that flow directly into nearby wetlands, streams and lakes and eventually makes it way to the Puget Sound.”

Runoff from car washes can be highly toxic, containing heavy metals, dirt, oil and grease and high concentrations of phosphates, the city reports.

Charity car wash

To make sure your charity car wash isn’t having a detrimental impact on the environment, contact the Puget Sound Car Wash Association or the Brown Bear Car Wash Program. These two programs allow charities to sell tickets, typically between $6 to $8. For those interested, the Puget Sound Car Wash Association can be contacted at (206) 622-8425.

The second option for Federal Way is renting a “parking lot charity car wash kit.” These kits “pump wash water into the sewer system, keeping untreated contaminants out of local surface waters.” Contact city water quality specialist Hollie Shilley at (253) 835-2752 or via email at

Washing at home

For those who seek the pure Zen enjoyment of washing their car at home, the city recommends these guidelines:

• Wash on an area that absorbs water, such as gravel or grass

• Use a small amount of phosphate-free soap

• Use a flow-control nozzle to minimize water use and runoff

• Always empty leftover buckets of wash water into a sink or toilet where it can be treated in the sewer system


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