Car Washing = Criminal Intent?
Pretty soon, citizens of Fairfax, California could be jailed for the heinous crime of washing their car. Fairfax is one of a number of cities the Wall Street Journal says is looking at drastically restricting or outright banning car washing at home or by charities. Santa Monica, California has already drafted a plan to ban car washes as fund raisers, stating they are "one of the biggest water wasters and pollution-generating events of this type." There isn't much concern over commercial car washes because some recycle water and others use the municipal sewer system to handle runoff. The Journal neglects to mention how much water the commercial car washes use, but then again, people who want to wash their own cars don't have an industry behind them lobbying to keep the focus off of them.
Martin, You are correct. If the runoff does go into storm drains it will pollute rivers, wetlands, etc. The question is by how much? Can it really be measured? Nature is more resillient than we give her credit for. Only non-biased scientific inquiry could answer this question. Alas most science today has built in bias, especially if money (government grants etc.) is attached to it. The pollution issue is why car washes have filtering & recycling systems since they do so many cars ** at one location **. I'm not ready to concede that you washing your car once a week in your driveway/at your curb is causing severe enough harm to be banned. Also I believe in NJ the storm drains in many communities are connected to the sewers so the runoff is processed. Anyone from NJ please correct me if I'm wrong. One more thing, mobile detailers/car washers have been required to contain runoff since the passing of the Clean Water Act in the early 1970's (for the same reason as fixed car washes). Many do not. It's because although the regulation is federal, the enforcement is left up to local authorities who have other priorities. If you use a mobile detailer you should insist he/she contains their runoff and complies with the law. Too many 'fly-by-night' detailers who don't want to spend the money to comply. If they do that, why not skip liability insurance converage or a business license as well?
windswords: I agree with you if you are saying that the effect of one car washed in the driveway is certainly negligable, and that nature can handle a whole lot of gunk. On the other hand, your argument was used in the 1970s by opponents of emission control, and they were kinda right too: why install catalysers in cars in New Hampshire? Why should people in rural Texas have to adopt to standards that those picky Californians set? Where is the measureable damage? Why, I can remember how car lobbys, back in the 1970s, opposed phasing out leaded fuel here in Germany. They said the damage caused by lead was a quantité négligable, if you'll pardon my French. They had a point, but they were on the wrong side of history. Meaning: modern societies try to stop emission of harmful substances at the source, before proof has been submitted that people or animals are actually dying.
The cleaning agents I use are all designed to minimize harm to the environment (much like household detergents have been for years). The non-water washing agent referred to in The Wall Street Journal sounds interesting. The only drawback appears to be that, when it is used, it takes longer to clean the vehicle than if water is used, which would be more of an issue with a business than with an individual (I can spare the extra 15 minutes). Reading the articles again, I also note that they want to ban washing vehicles on the street, not on grass or lawns. As others have noted, in many communities, storm drains are connected to water processing plants, which would make this a non-issue (except during droughts, obviously). Eric_Stepans: The root cause of your energy crisis was a botched "deregulation" scheme (that didn't completely deregulate the market, which was the real problem) passed by the California legislature and approved the Governor of California. The problems would have happened without the intervention of Enron.
I've invested in some ONR (no rinse wash) and I'll probably buy water to use it with, so the water nazis can leave me alone. The last time i had my GTI serviced the dealership did me the 'favor' of installing swirls into every square inch of my meticulously upkept clearcoat (and actual scratches, to boot)... my car now looks as bad as my nearly 10 year old integra did when i got rid of it, and it doesn't help that because it's black it now looks dirty all the time from the swirling. Once I get it polished i'll break the fingers of anyone who tries to wash it for me. You can run your car through a swirl-o-matic, but I actually like my car, and want to keep it looking good for a long time. I'd rather do the upkeep properly than have to polish it every time some idiot thinks they know how to wash a car for me.