Fish-friendly methods for washing cars

If you're a fish, here's an all-too-familiar summertime scene of horror: Humans sudsing up their cars on a steaming parking lot as toxic rivulets of soapy water, engine oil and grime gush down storm drains.

Soap compounds coat gills making it tough for fish to take in air, and more susceptible to the perils of petroleum and pesticides.

That's why environmental educators with local governments are reminding car owners to use fish-friendly methods to wash their vehicles this summer:

Go to a commercial carwash. Wash cars on grass or gravel. Support a carwash fundraiser with environmentally sound water disposal.

Many people don't realize that what goes down storm drains flows untreated into South Sound waterways, polluting the habitat of salmon, crabs and countless other sea critters, environmental educators say.

In fact, half of those surveyed in a recent Pierce County poll thought the water in storm drains was destined for treatment, said Teresa Lewis, education and outreach coordinator with Pierce County surface water management.

"We are trying to educate people," Lewis said. "Anything that isn't rainwater shouldn't go into a storm drain."

Pierce County is launching a campaign this month to promote its newly acquired set of six environmentally friendly carwash kits, which divert dirty car wash water from storm drains to a lawn or into a utility sink that leads to a sewer treatment system.

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