It’s very important to wash vehicles sensibly while keeping soap, oil, heavy metals, and other pollutants from running into local creeks, Lake Ballinger or other waterways. Even using biodegradable soaps can harm local water bodies, since just like standard soaps, biodegradable soaps can injure fish gills and skin.
Car wash water that runs into a yard drain or street catch basin does NOT go to a sewer treatment plant like wastewater inside of a house. It is not uncommon to receive complaints that a creek is full of soap suds, especially when it rains after a dry period. In most cases, people washing their cars are not aware that the storm drain where their wash water ended up was connected directly to a creek.
What can people do instead? Use a commercial car wash, where the wash water drains to the sanitary sewer or wash on grass or a landscaped area, where the water can filter into the ground. If a driveway drains to an area where the wash water can infiltrate, that works too. A hose with a shut-off valve should be used to reduce runoff and the soapy water should be dumped out in the sink.
For charity car washes, borrow a car wash kit from the city to avoid polluting local creeks and lakes. Contact Laura Reed, Stormwater Program Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (425) 744-6226 for questions or more information.