All Rivers Flow To Oceans Or Lakes Because Water California Car Wash Fundraisers and Environmental Law

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California Car Wash Fundraisers and Environmental Law

Many nonprofit groups are uncomfortable with being allowed to hold car wash fundraisers in some California cities. It’s not that government officials are against your groups raising money, they’re concerned about where the soapy dirty water is going. This is a problem, and instead of getting upset about it, it might be good for us to understand some of the history behind the rules.

History

It all started many years ago when Congress passed the federal Clean Water Act in 1972 during the Nixon administration. This was in response to major pollution problems from factories, strip mining and sewage treatment plants, or the lack thereof, polluting the nation’s waterways. It was actually quite a problem. It was an environmental disaster that caused disease and death to wildlife and some people. Realizing how bad the problem really was, the federal government empowered the states to take care of the problems in their states. States passed state laws to help solve this problem. Meanwhile, the federal government tightened standards forcing states to tighten or breach their standards. With the threat of withholding federal money to the states, the states continued to pass more and more laws. Industry was obviously not happy and even government agencies were unable to enforce the laws they made. Therefore, target dates were implemented to give everyone time to comply. Overnight environmental consulting firms sprang up along with a whole new industry of manufacturing environmental equipment and products, many of which did not even practice their own. Of course, all good things take time, and cleaning your water is definitely a good thing.

The state of California has divided the state into nine different regions, recognizing that each region has different pollution problems based on the type of industry, population, and population in that area. These regions were called ‘Regional Water Quality Control Districts’ (RWQCD). All of these are regulated by a state board defined by the federal Clean Water Act as the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB). Once the problem was broken down into smaller pieces, things started to change for the better.

The SWRCB was established in California and is commonly referred to as ‘The State Board’. The state board regulates water quality control, which is any activity or factor that affects the quality of the state’s water, and includes water pollution and nuisance prevention and remediation. It seems too broad and the state board has too much power. Fortunately, with the combined efforts of industry, government and the public, they now understand the issues well enough to make informed decisions and fully understand that your organization needs to make money. Thus, instead of restricting and restricting activities, everyone is working on solutions and processes to allow responsible discharge to create a win-win situation for all.

Recently, state water quality control boards asked counties to submit for approval and receive permits to discharge the same water they have been discharging for years. These permits are called NPDES permits. It stands for National Pollution Abatement System. Most counties have assigned an existing department to handle these permits. Most likely, it’s the county’s flood control department. Unfortunately, this part of the county deals with permits for land development, bridges, infrastructure, etc. So far, they knew very little about pollution. Some counties delegated this responsibility to the Department of Environmental Health Services, which worked with the Flood Control Department to control storm drains. NPDES permits are issued by the state for local county urban runoff discharges. Each city in each county is expected to enact ordinances through municipal codes and develop plans to control their local runoff/pollution. Counties remain accountable to the state and states to the federal government. NPDES requirements are a product of the EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency, although they are enforced, permitted, and regulated locally by cities, counties, and states.

The actual statute used to implement these laws can be found in Sections 13.260 – 13.265 of the California Water Code. At one point it actually reads:

“No person or persons shall discharge water into any waterway without the permission or permission of the State Regional Water Quality Control Board.”

It sounds pretty absolute, doesn’t it. It is against the law for you to take a glass of water from your sink, go to the storm drain and pour the water down the drain. It certainly won’t harm the environment, but given full authority, regional water quality control boards can look at everything on a case-by-case basis. So after you wash those cars, get serious about your water.

Storm water discharge

City, county and state governments know that car washing has always been a favorite fundraiser for sports teams, scout troops, schools and other non-profit groups. With low capital investment costs, car wash fundraisers can generate substantial profits. For the past ten years, government agencies, especially in California, have been working with industry to find solutions to purify our water. Today, America’s waterways are cleaner than ever, even though many regions are overpopulated. It’s working great. Now we are going one step further. No pollution from any source, even mobile dog walkers. Only in the last few years have government agencies decided that the adverse environmental impact is too great to allow car wash fundraising. With strong lobbying from fixed-site car wash owners, some cities and counties have outlawed these fundraisers unless certain procedures are followed to ensure that no waste wash water enters storm drains, ditches or waterways.

Their reasoning goes like this: dirty water containing soaps and detergents, exhaust fumes, gasoline and motor oil are washed from cars and run into nearby storm drains. Unlike the water we use in our homes and businesses that goes down the drain and is treated at a sewer treatment plant, water that goes into storm drains goes directly to rivers, creeks, oceans and lakes without any form of treatment. Obviously a car wash fundraiser itself will create some adverse environmental impacts. But government agencies know that collective car wash fundraising causes significant pollution.

They also know that biodegradable soaps do not reduce the effect. Because it is biodegradable, soap will degrade over time. Also plutonium, it takes longer. Soap and car wash products are toxic to aquatic life even though they are biodegradable. Think about it. If you really want the city to let you hold a car wash fundraiser, you’re going to have to figure out how to keep dirty soapy water out of the storm drain.

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