One of the major environmental issues of our time is the contamination of groundwater and freshwater systems. High profile sources of pollution like landfills, pesticides , herbicides, road salt, and abandoned oil and gas tanks get the focus of concerned parties. Typically overlooked is the contamination from power washing. It was estimated in the 1990’s that there was over 1 billion pounds of contaminants released into the environment each year through power washing. Since then the practice has only grown, with power washers nearly as common as lawnmowers.
Contamination of groundwater and freshwater from power washing comes from several sources. The simple act of washing your car in your driveway allows residual water to run into the storm sewer with detergents, hydrocarbons, and road salt. In Toronto and Calgary it is illegal to wash your car in the driveway..although enforcement is lax.
Marinas around North America routinely haul their boats out of the water and pressure wash the hulls with the residue being allowed to flow back into the environment. This water can contain hydrocarbons and other pollutants. In Ontario there are over 1,000 marinas, with 1,000,000 boats using our freshwater systems. The marina industry does have regulations to protect the environment…but compliance is mainly voluntary and enforcement is sporadic at best.
In Western Canada there are over 800 active drilling rigs. Uncontained water from daily pressure washing and cleaning these rigs leeches directly into the soil, gets into the groundwater and destroys the supply. This industry has the added requirement to pressure wash equipment before it leaves the site to curb the spread of agricultural disease and fungus such as Club Root.
Other examples of contamination from pressure washing abound in various industries, but what is the answer? All power washing must occur in a closed loop environment. The residual water gets contained and purified before it is returned to the environment. The contaminated materials from the water are collected and disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner. Both fixed and portable units for cleaning, containment, and purification are available. Deployment of these units should be made mandatory.
Kyoto Containment System:
Contamination of our ground water through power washing is insidious..it occurs on virtually every street in North America. It is time the governments, environmentalists, and scientists recognize this threat. Education , legislation, and enforcement will help save our freshwater for future generations.