Storm Water Violations Associated with Vehicle Washing

A common source of storm water pollution at industrial facilities is vehicle wash water. Any vehicle wash water that discharges from the facility to the outside would be in violation under the Storm Water Permit.  In fact, Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) has specifically mentioned that they will evaluate vehicle washing activities while conducting site inspections.  Additionally, the U.S. EPA and the U.S. Justice Department have issued citations to several ready-mix concrete plants for failure to maintain best management practices associated with vehicle washing activities.  Monetary penalties for these vehicle washing citations totaled $360,000.

Environmental Concerns Associated with Vehicle Wash Water

Most facilities using forklifts and other vehicles understand how important it is to clean these vehicles in order to keep them well-maintained. However, storm water and wash water that runs off of vehicles being washed may have high pH and usually contain high levels of oil and grease and total suspended solids, all of which have a negative effect on the environment. Because of this, discharging vehicle wash water is not allowed under the Georgia Industrial Storm Water Permit.

Containing and Recycling Vehicle Wash Water

In order to prevent vehicle wash water from discharging from your facility, you should implement a containment system to collect the wash water. This wash water should then run through a recycling system that cleans the water and allows it to be reused. Careful consideration must go into designing an effective vehicle wash water collection system. The containment system should be equipped with curbing or should be sloped to prevent the vehicle wash water from discharging outside of the washing area. The washing area should also be designed to prevent storm water from flowing into the area by using roofs, walls, and curbing in order to avoid overloading the system’s storage capacity. Spill kits should also be stored near these vehicle washing areas to collect oil spills and leaks.

The recycling system should be used to filter out any suspended and dissolved solids. However, this process may generate sludge that will need to be tested in order to determine if it is a hazardous waste. The sludge generated in most recycling systems is rarely designated as a hazardous waste and can usually be disposed of in a sanitary landfill. If solids collected from the recycling system must be stored on site prior to being disposed of, they should be kept inside closed containers or be stored under cover to prevent exposure to storm water.