Alex Norton, Grade 9
Mr. Lacina, Teacher / Marlborough High School, Marlborough
"Can Something as Common as Washing
the Family Car Be Hazardous to the Environment? "
Can something as common as washing the family car be hazardous to the environment? Unfortunately it can be. Most people think nothing of parking their car in the driveway and hosing it down with water while scrubbing it with a variety of cleaners: soap for the overall cleaning, glass cleaner for the windows, and special cleaners to remove tar, bug splatter or tough grease spots. Once the dirt and grime are gone, a thorough rinse with water and, presto, a nice clean car.
But at what cost to the environment? All of the chemicals in each of the cleaning products just ran down the driveway into the storm drains. So why is this a problem for the environment? Doesn’t the water in the storm drains go to area treatment plants? This is a common misconception, but the water eventually actually heads underground on the way to nearby streams and creeks. The chemicals from the cleaning products don’t get treated en route and enter the water intact. Unfortunately many of these chemicals can be poisonous to fish and other aquatic life found in streams and creeks.
So what can be done to prevent contamination of local water sources and protect the wildlife therein? First, start reading labels. The government requires companies to list ingredients on a product label and state whether or not the product is toxic. Use cleaning products that are biodegradable. Better yet, just use water and a little elbow grease. When possible, park the car in the yard so the water doesn’t enter the storm drains but filters down through the ground. If a cleaning product is used, don’t forget to empty the bucket in the sink so the contents can be properly treated. And finally, for the really dirty car, treat yourself and the environment by taking it to a local carwash for a thorough cleaning. These businesses are required to collect and reuse their water or make sure it drains to the local wastewater treatment plant.
A clean car isn’t a bad thing, but take the time to make sure it’s a safe thing!
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