Pollution Prevention -- It’s Up to Us
Rain, industrial and household water mixed with urban pollutants creates stormwater pollution. The pollutants include: oil and other automotive fluids, paint and construction debris, yard and pet wastes, pesticides and litter. Each day, polluted urban runoff enters our rivers untreated, leaving toxic chemicals and trash to be carried downstream. Urban runoff pollution contaminates our rivers, and ditches, harms aquatic life and increases the risk of flooding by clogging gutters and catch basins.
Car Maintenance Problems
Many common car maintenance routines contribute to river pollution. Washing the car or pouring used motor oil into gutters or storm drains pollutes the rivers. Water runoff from streets, parking lots and driveways picks up oil and grease dripped from cars, asbestos worn from brake linings, zinc from tires and organic compounds and metals from spilled fuels. Oil and grease, for example, clog fish gills and block oxygen from entering the water. If oxygen levels in the water become too low, aquatic animals may be harmed and/or die.
Cleaning Work Sites
- Do not hose down your shop floor. It is best to sweep it regularly.
- Use non toxic cleaning products. Baking soda paste works well on battery heads, cable clamps and chrome; mix the soda with a mild, biodegradable dishwashing soap to clean wheels and tires; for windows, mix white vinegar or lemon juice with water.
- Prepare and use easy to find spill containment and cleanup kits. Include safety equipment and cleanup materials appropriate to the type and quantity of materials that could spill.
- Pour kitty litter, sawdust or cornmeal on spills.
- Your customer’s regular car maintenance prevents fluids from leaking onto streets and washing into storm drains. It is also good for business.
- Change fluids carefully. Use a drip pan to avoid spills.
- Prevent fluid leaks from stored vehicles. Drain fluids such as unused gas, transmission and hydraulic oil, brake and radiator fluid from vehicles or parts kept in storage.
- Implement simple work practices to reduce the chance of spills.
- Use a funnel when pouring liquids and place a tray underneath to catch spills. Place drip pans under the spouts of liquid storage containers. Clean up spills immediately.
Prevent oil and grease, suspended solids and toxics from washing into storm drains:
- Designate a washing site where water drains to the sewer system. The area must be paved and well marked as a wash area. Post signs prohibiting oil changes and washing with solvents. Train all employees to use the designated area.
- Wash vehicles with biodegradable, phosphatefree detergent. Use a bucket (not a running hose) to wash and rinse vehicles. This conserves water and minimizes urban runoff. Runoff mus t be directed to landscaping, if all of it will soak in, or the sanitary sewer system directly or by capturing it and pouring/pumping it into the sanitary sewer.
Gas and diesel spills are common when fueling vehicles. To minimize pollution:
- Design fueling areas so that all spills are contained and runoff cannot carry spills into storm drains. Spills should be directed to a containment area and/or device that allows for proper treatment and disposal.
- Cover the fueling area to keep rain from washing away spilled materials. Extend the cover several feet beyond the containment area.
- Keep absorbent materials onsite to allow prompt cleanup of all spills. Post signs instructing people not to overfill gas tanks. Overfilling causes spills and vents gas fumes into the air.