Loudoun

dscn1098Did you know that common automobile maintenance routines such as car washing, changing and disposal of motor oil, and degreasing auto parts at home can impact local streams and rivers?

Stormwater runoff from streets, parking lots, and driveways picks up auto pollutants (such as oil & grease, detergents and wash water from car washing activities, asbestos worn from brake linings, zinc from tires, organic compounds and metals from spilled fuels) and carries them into storm drains. The untreated water discharges into local streams and ponds, all of which eventually discharge into the Chesapeake Bay.

Some of the harmful effects of automotive pollutants are:

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  • Oil, petroleum products and other toxins from automobiles can kill fish, plants, aquatic life and contaminate drinking water. Some of these toxins and metals are absorbed in aquatic life and can cause health problems in humans when contaminated fish and shellfish are consumed.
  • Pollutants such as heavy metals, which are found in many automobile fluids are toxic to aquatic life because they interfere with photosynthesis, respiration, growth and reproduction.
  • Nutrients present in car wash detergents can cause large amounts of algae to grow. The algae blocks sunlight, which thereby depletes oxygen content in water bodies and results in fish kills.

The following practices can go a long way towards keeping our waterways clean:

Car Washing

  • Wash your car at a professional car wash where rinse water is recycled.
  • If you choose to wash your cars at home, wash the car on an unpaved surface so dirty water will not flow to a driveway, street, gutter or storm drain.
  • Choose detergents that are safe for the environment (low phosphorous and nitrogen content) and labeled as “non-toxic,” “phosphate free” or “biodegradable”.

Changing Oil

  • Work in a contained area that is easy to clean up, preferably with a concrete floor. Always use a drain pan when draining oil and use a funnel while pouring oil.
  • Be careful not to mix used motor oil with any other fluids, such as antifreeze, brake fluid, etc.
  • Recycle used motor oil and oil filters at designated drop-off locations.
  • Degrease engines only in facilities where wash water is appropriately treated and discharged to the sanitary sewer

Leaks and Spills

  • Fix all leaks as soon as possible.
  • Do not allow vehicles to drip fluids onto street, gutter or storm drain.
  • Use plastic tarps and drip pans to contain all leaks and during all automobile maintenance activities.
  • Use an absorbent such as sawdust or kitty litter for spills. Dispose of the absorbent in the trash and and do not allow it to be washed down into the street, gutter or storm drain.

Places to Know

Rules to Know

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