Pressure Washing Pollution Solutions
One quart of used motor oil
Stormwater runoff refers to runoff resulting from rainfall. It is very noticeable during heavy rainstorms when large volumes of water drain off the urban landscape picking up pollutants along the way.
Urban runoff can happen anytime of the year when excessive water use from irrigation, vehicle washing and other sources carries trash, lawn clippings and other urban pollutants into storm drains.
Clean businesses attract more customers. If we are going to reduce storm drain runoff pollution, high traffic areas need to be cleaned often. However, have you ever thought of what happens to all the wastewater generated by pressure washing?
"What you see here are drive-through lanes at a bank being cleaned. We pressure wash this location 4 times a year. Look at all the oil and grease on the surface after only 3 months of not being cleaned. Can you imagine all the contaminated wastewater that is being discharged when cleaning a parking structure that hasn't been cleaned for a year or more!" reports Cathy Parker of www.parkerwest.com, who provides an innovative solution that keeps wash water out of the drain and then separates the contaminants from the water before it is disposed of safely.
Sample Parking Garage Oil Deposits Before Being Pressure Washed
"Oil carried from runoff is particularly damaging, the report said, because it typically ends up discharged by rivers and streams into bays and estuaries that "are often some of the most sensitive ecological areas along the coast." That relentless runoff carries traces of a host of chemicals found in most fuels and can harm marine life, even in low concentrations." May 24, 2002 – New York Times
The most common method for getting rid of the pressure washing wastewater is to simply hose it to the nearest storm drain -- which leads to our nearest creek, river, lakes and ultimately the ocean.
Wastewater generated by pressure washing high traffic areas contains the used motor oil, antifreeze, air conditioning condensate, as well as, the toxic degreasers that are being used in the cleaning process. Most pressure washers allow the wastewater to flow to the nearest storm drain which leads to the nearest waterway, such as a creek, river and ultimately our ocean bays. Remember, ONE QUART OF USED MOTOR OIL contaminates 250,000 GALLONS OF FRESH WATER.
We all know that the streams and ocean provide us with food and drinking water. We might not know the solution.
Parking facilities are cleaned regularly for cosmetic reasons, as well as to meet safety and liability concerns.
Dirty pressure wash water BEFORE separation of pollutants and water by the Parker West unit.
Polluted runoff via the storm drains is one our nation's most predominant water quality control problems.
Forty percent of water pollution is from automotive fluids washing off paved surfaces from normal rainfall and from cleaning activities.
The part of the Act that facility and property managers are responsible for and must manage the risk of is the penalty section.
Among discharges prohibited to the Storm Drains listed in Section 301 of the CWA is waste water from a "Power (pressure) washer that cleans such things as equipment, a restaurant's solid waste storage areas, or a parking lot and discharges the process water into a storm drain."
Also, even though a company providing pressure washing services may have a Sanitary Sewer discharge permit from the local jurisdiction they are providing the service, it does not mean they can discharge untreated wastewater to the on site sewer.
"If the wastewater generated contains any significant levels of oil, grease and metals, the wastewater must be pretreated prior to discharging to the on site sewer or it must be hauled by a licensed waste hauler."
With permission from the sanitary district and the property owner, wash water from pressure washers can be discharged into a:
Grease can build up in the intake pipes and sewers, creating blockages, which then can create wastewater overflows into businesses, homes or storm drains. If toxic wastewater enters the sewer it can upset the biological treatment processes at the treatment plant or even pass through to our waterways.
How do you eliminate the risk of improper wastewater management?
"The only effective way to protect your company against the potential exposure created by traditional parking facility pressure washing is to analyze and understand your company's risks and take ongoing steps to eliminate those risks," states Parker.
Until recently, the only way to legally handle contaminated wastewater generated by pressure washing was to collect, store, haul, dispose and manifest it, which is costly and time consuming.
Fortunately, new technologies are now available which enable pressure washers to properly manage their wastewater very cost effectively.
"By investing in new technologies, environmentally compliant pressure washing companies are protecting and eliminating risks for their clients," says Parker. "By providing clients with a complete service that incorporates the use of industrial vacuums and waste water recovery and processing systems, you meet both compliance and social responsibility goals.
"Modern wastewater recovery systems are small enough to be installed in trailers that are 18'to20' long and they fit easily inside low ceiling parking structures," Parker says.
Before hiring a service provider to pressure wash your parking garage, ask for a demonstration, which includes the wastewater management. Really LOOK at their equipment and know what to look for:
This is an issue best addressed by the social responsibility and environmental ethics policies of each company that hires or mandates "clean parking garages and sidewalks". Only through proactive vendor management, will this problem be solved because it is just too big and too much of a 'maintenance issue' be be enforced by beleaguered environmental enforcement teams. Companies can sometimes get away with the immediate price of compliance...but with our dwindling fresh water supply -- no one will get away with it in the long term.
Companies have the means, they just need the procedures to prevent this nighttime pollution problem from continuing. Where there's a will, there's a way!
For more information about environmentally compliant power washing and risk management, contact
Cathleen Parker, President
Parker West International, LLC
Cleaning America-Preserving Our Waterways
Year of the Ocean Information Line: 1-888-4YOTO98
Year of the Ocean Website: NOAA's Year of the Ocean
NOAA's National Ocean Service
Office of Coastal Resource Management
ATTN: Non-point Pollution
1305 East-West Highway
Silver Spring, MD 20910
For specific information about state or county / city regulations regarding pressure washing or cleaning hazardous wastes (oil, gas, etc.) from your property, contact the environmental department of your state, county or city government. Corporate social responsibility recognizes that oil products are hazardous and need to be recycled, reclaimed and removed in a safe manner to keep our water supply clean for both people and environmental sustainability.
Solutions are available, it is up to professional, conscientious facility and property managers to make sustainable choices at the critical point where an ounce of prevention makes a world of difference.
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