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Commercial Car Washes & Puget Sound

The Puget Sound Car Wash Association (PSCWA) is lobbying for a state retail sales tax exemption for all commercial car washes in Washington. It seeks to promote commercial car washes to the public and could have an important impact on the professional wash industry. It’s also bringing crucial attention to the dangers of residential car washing. Here’s what you need to know…

Water Quality Threats

Water quality is the single most important environmental factor facing the Seattle area. Seventy-five percent of the pollutants now threatening the Puget Sound’s waterways originate from residential neighborhoods’ untreated runoff. Much of this runoff comes from driveway car washing and/or dirty vehicles.

The PSCWA notes that local governments do not properly enforce Department of Energy (DOE) mandated ordinances. As a result, a disproportionate amount of residential toxic runoff threatens Washington’s waterways. Local governments willingly admit that their efforts have been minimal to poor.

The Documented Dangers of Residential Car Washing

Studies by federal, state, and local governments support the PSCWA’s claims. They show that residential car washing introduces dangerous metals, detritus, and detergents into waterways. These toxins are harmful to human beings and organisms such as fish. The amount of pollution entering Washington waterways remains alarming. Unregulated car washing ranks second on the Seattle Stormwater Grading and Drainage Control Code, a list of the eight riskiest pollution-generating activities.

Unwashed vehicles contribute to the problem, too. Rain rinses heavy metals, oil, and toxic chemicals from dirty cars into residential storm drains. Greatly compounding the problem are the number of vehicles on area roadways. According to Christine Todd Whitman, a former EPA administrator, “It may seem like a small amount of oil and grease, but collectively, these little sources add up to (the equivalent of) twenty-three Exxon Valdez oil spills in the continental United States per year.”

The Problem Facing Puget Sound

Consider this. It’s estimated that the Puget Sound area contains about three million cars. These cars are concentrated in the counties of King, Pierce, Thurston, and Snohomish. Three million cars introduce the following amounts of pollution into area storm drains each year: 9,184 gallons of gasoline, diesel, and motor oil; 19,355 pounds of phosphorous and nitrogen; 2,903 pounds of ammonia; and, 1,451,613 pounds of solid waste. From residential storm drains, these toxins enter local rivers and eventually the Puget Sound.

Dirty cars and driveway washing contribute to a hefty environmental footprint. And weak local enforcement of DOE regulations means many residents persist in washing their vehicles at home… or not washing them at all. Yet, clearly, residential car washing and dirty cars cause pollution. So, how do we combat this vicious cycle?

Commercial car washes.

The Commercial Car Wash Difference

Commercial car washes are highly regulated. They are required to treat all water for pollutants before reintroduction into local waterways. As a result, commercial car washes provide the only eco-friendly solution for dealing with dirty cars. What’s more, there are few industries today that manage water as effectively as commercial car washes do. A car washed professionally does not waste water. A car washed professionally does not contribute to water pollution. It’s that simple. Like the PSCWA, it’s time for the larger car wash industry to get behind this potent message.

Because of federal, state, and local regulations, Washington’s commercial car washes face steep compliance costs and utility fees. These include fees for access to water treatment facilities. This cost passes directly onto customers. So, there’s little incentive for the public to move from driveway to commercial washing. Or, wash their car at all, for that matter. These costs also create barriers to entry for new and ongoing operations of commercial car washes.

Sales Tax Exemption Common Sense

A sales tax exemption for the commercial car wash industry in Washington would help reduce the amount of pollutants entering local waterways. It would ensure the economic wellbeing of the commercial car wash industry, too. Other states should consider similar exemptions. In so doing, we can promote professional car washing and reduce water consumption and pollution.

What do you think about the PSCWA’s lobby? Would you like to see a sales tax exemption for car washes in your area? Do you think the sales tax exemption will deter driveway washing? And improve the health of commercial car washes and the environment? Let us know what you think by commenting below. We’d love to hear from you.

White Water Solutions can turn your wash business into a more efficient, profit-generating, eco-friendly enterprise. Contact us today to find out how. You’ve got nothing to lose, and everything to gain.