Waste not, wash not


    In the Dec. 9 issue, an article about a Malibu Car Wash indicated that a number of local residents came to the defense of a business owner whose conditional use permit was before the Planning Commission for revocation because it used too many parking spaces. In short the business was too successful. This business received an incredible show of support because he provides a needed service in the city, and he is well liked.

    All well and good. However, unless this and any other car wash in the city utilizes a catch basin or other containment device for both liquid and solid runoff, they are making a living at contaminating Malibu Lagoon and Surfrider Beach! The fact is that a commercial car wash that does not catch and treat its effluent is guilty of pollution. This is considered “nonpoint discharge” and is a violation of the Clean Water Act.

    A call to a nearby car wash in Thousand Oaks yielded some enlightening information. Newly constructed car washes are required to have some type of water treatment capability and recycle much of their water. The average car wash has approximately 10 tons of sludge material trucked away three times a year to be treated as industrial waste. The average home car wash takes about 50 to 100 gallons of water; most of the “mobile” car washes require between eight and 11 gallons of water per car. Along with the dirty water, some incredibly caustic substances are generated. Certain brake linings contain asbestos. A byproduct of catalytic converters is sulfuric acid. This sulfuric acid results in acidified hydrocarbons that accumulates on your car to be washed away during the car wash process. This does not even take into consideration what is washed from the tires, and oil and grease from road use. All of this makes its way into Malibu Lagoon.

    Every child knows that what we place in our streets will make its way to storm drains and eventually into the ocean. We continuously hear about the water quality of Malibu Lagoon and the resultant effect on Surfrider Beach. Before we condemn far-off polluters, we should clean up our backyard first.

    The city should be far less concerned about over parking at the car wash, and begin to look at the amount of industrial waste being generated to the Lagoon and Surfrider Beach.

    The city of Thousand Oaks, supported by the Sierra Club, carefully reviewed this issue a few years ago and strongly regulated this type of car wash. Perhaps our city staff could gain some insight from the staff work already available by that city to help make sure that this type of business operates in an environmentally friendly manner.

    John Falk