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Driving down pollution from car washes

Car washing businesses will now have no excuse for allowing run-off to pollute waterways after the Environment Agency published new good-practice guidance.

Along with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and Northern Ireland's Environment and Heritage Service, the Environment Agency for England and Wales has produced new Pollution Prevention Guidelines (PPG 13) covering all methods of vehicle washing and cleaning, including automatic wash systems, washing by hand and using high pressure or steam cleaners.

The Environment Agency's Pollution Prevention Advisor, Teresa Brown, said “Run-off from washing vehicles, particularly on a commercial scale, contributes to diffuse pollution that puts our wildlife at risk. If you discharge trade effluent – such as water contaminated with oil, detergents or sludge – into the environment or into drains without permission, you are breaking the law.

“With the rising popularity of car-washing businesses in retail and industrial premises –such as supermarket car parks and former petrol filling stations – the risk that run-off will flow into storm water drains and pollute rivers is higher than ever.

“Dirt, brake dust, traffic film residues and oil that are washed off vehicles are all pollutants. Cleaning detergents and chemicals that are used, even those labelled biodegradable, can also be very poisonous to river life.”

The runoff produced from vehicle washing carried out as a business or industrial activity is classified as trade effluent, and must be dealt with properly to avoid causing pollution.

If you cause pollution in England and Wales, under the Water Resources Act, a person/business can be fined up to £20,000 and/or up to 3 months in prison.

The new PPG 13 guidelines include easy to follow advice on:

· Where you should and should not clean vehicles

· Obligations regarding discharges to public sewers

· Options if public foul sewers are not available

· Drainage systems

· Using and storing detergents and cleaning chemicals

· Resource efficiency and waste minimisation

· Cleaning up chemical spills

· Good practice for different washing methods (i.e. Automated systems, washing by hand).

PPG 13 – Good Practice Guidance to Prevent Pollution from Vehicle Washing and Cleaning Activities can be downloaded free of charge from www.environment-agency.gov.uk/ppg

Hardcopies can be ordered from www.environment-agency.gov.uk/publications

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