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Car Maintenance

If not properly handled, fluids such as antifreeze, motor oils, gas, lubricants, grease, and cleaning soaps all have the potential to drip, spill, or be washed into the storm drain system. Once thy have entered local waterways, hese fluids do not dissolve and are toxic to plants and animals living in the water.

Motor oil is especially dangerous since it is exposed to heat and oxygen during engine combustion, which changes its chemical makeup into a concentrated cocktail of toxic compounds.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1 gallon of used motor oil can contaminate 1 million gallons of fresh water. If used motor oil reaches sewage treatment plants, even small amounts -- 50 to 100 parts per million -- can impact the water treatment process.

How to prevent it:

  • Regularly check your car for leaks to avoid having these fluids enter nearby storm drains.

  • Dispose of used car oil at a local drop-off site instead of pouring it down the drain. A list of hazardous waste drop-off sites can be found here.

  • If possible, take your vehicle to a commercial car wash. Water at car wash sites is regulated and sent to a wastewater treatment plant. Some commercial car washes also use a closed loop system to recycle and reuse their water from washes.

  • If you wash your car at home, choose environmentally friendly detergents that are water-based, biodegradable, and/or non-toxic.

  • Wash your car on the grass or another unpaved surface, such as gravel or dirt, so that water can be naturally absorbed into the ground instead of flowing into a storm drain.

  • Turn off your hose while washing the car to prevent excess water from running off of your property.

  • Avoid pouring your bucket of soapy water onto your driveway or street. Instead, take it inside and pour it down the toilet or other drain that will send the water to a wastewater treatment plant.

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