Vehicle Washing

Vehicle fleet wash water management

MS4 vehicle washing involves the removal of dust and dirt from the exterior of trucks, boats and other vehicles, as well as the cleaning of cargo areas and engines and other mechanical parts. Washing of vehicles and equipment generates oil, grease, sediment and metals in the wash water as well as degreasing solvents, cleaning solutions and detergents used in the cleaning operations.

The impacts of these constituents discharging to downstream water bodies include increased biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), increased temperature and acidity, and reduced oxygen levels. These environmental effects cause potentially fatal physiological disorders and reduced immune status in aquatic fish and other organisms.

The EPA considers wash water to be a non-stormwater discharge (i.e. illicit discharge); therefore, wash water from a facility must be directed to a sanitary sewer or treated on-site prior to discharge. MS4s often own and maintain their own fleet of vehicles that may include cars, tractors, trucks, parks equipment, and other types of vehicles. This fact sheet provides guidance on techniques to reduce water pollution from the washing of MS4 vehicle fleets applicable to MS4 SWPPPs.

Benefits / Pollution Reduction

Appropriate vehicle wash water treatment and disposal helps to maintain the clarity, temperature and oxygen levels of downstream water bodies by keeping associated pollutants out of storm drains.

Program Development & Implementation

Programs designed to manage vehicle wash water include a combination of the elements identified below. The program elements implemented are dependent on the MS4’s access and authority to discharge to sanitary sewer, available resources, and size of staff and vehicle fleet.

Contracting Vehicle Washing Services

Properly maintained commercial washing and steam cleaning businesses are usually better equipped to handle wash waters and are permitted to discharge wash water to the sanitary sewer system. Negotiate with commercial car washes and steam cleaning businesses to handle fleet vehicle washing whenever possible. This option eliminates the cost of building the proper facility and the liability of operating it. However, this option may not be feasible for fleets of higher quantity or vehicles of larger size.

Wash Racks

MS4s with a large fleet of vehicles might consider building MS4-operated wash racks. Wash racks are designed to collect wash water and ultimately discharge to the sanitary sewer rather than the storm sewer. Wash racks consist of designated, paved wash areas that are bermed or sloped to contain and direct wash water to a collection point. Wash water is collected in a sump connected to the sanitary sewer, an on-site process treatment system, or an enclosed recycling system. Connections to the sanitary sewer need approval from the sewer authority and may require pretreatment.

This image shows fire trucks being washed on a driveway=3>Fire trucks being washed on a driveway

On-site Treatment

Another suitable option is to contain and treat all wash water on the premises by using a detention pond or bermed area that will retain the wash water on site to evaporate and infiltrate. An individual NPDES/SDS permit is needed for such a treatment system. Separate containment is required for salt brine.

MS4-Operated Vehicle Washing Facility BMPs

Designated area Wash all vehicles in designated areas only. Wash vehicles inside or under cover wherever possible. When washing outdoors, provide an impervious concrete wash pad with a collection system. Alternatively, consider a pervious wash area where infiltration precludes runoff to storm drains. Depth to ground water table and local geology must be

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