Instructions for Outside Washing

Purpose
This document provides guidelines for the disposal of wastewater generated from activities associated with outside washing of property.  This includes, but is not limited to, the cosmetic cleaning of streets, parking lots, sidewalks, building walls and roofs.  This does not include the cleaning of the outside of vehicles.  All discharges to a City of Mesquite drainage or sewer system must comply with the applicable requirements set forth in the City of Mesquite code of ordinances.  The specific ordinances pertaining to discharges to the drainage and sewer systems are listed in the following table:

Storm - Ordinance 3175
Sanitary - Ordinance 2823, 2925

Please be advised that Federal Law requires the quality assurance section of the City of Mesquite's Public Works Department to stringently enforce both of these ordinances.

Disposal of anything other than stormwater into the storm drainage system is unlawful.  The only exception is if  your wash water does not carry pollutants into the storm drainage system.  Proof such as analytical results of proposed/ past discharges may be required to establish that the subject discharge(s) do/ did not contain pollutants.

Conversely, it is also unlawful to discharge stormwater to the sanitary sewage system.  Further, the pollutants contained in wastewater discharged to the sanitary sewer system may not exceed levels set froth by Ordinance 2823.  Sanitary sewer discharges of certain washing processes may be subject to other Federal or local regulations and may require approval prior to discharge.  Contact the Quality Assurance Section if you believe (or are unsure if) your discharge will be subject to these additional regulations.

Following these instructions will help insure that you and/or your company stay in compliance with the Water Pollution Ordinance 3575, protect area water quality and avoid enforcement action.

Definitions
Absorbents - Materials capable of absorbing (i.e. oil, dry sawdust, absorbent booms or pads).
Best Management Practices (BMP) - The best available practices or devices that, when used singly in combination, reduce the contamination of the surface and/or ground waters.
Chemicals
- Detergents, surfactants, degreasers, or any other additive.

Car wash Fundraisers - Potential Creek Pollution?
(*Before a fund raising car wash, or volunteer car wash event is allowed in the City, it is best to check on the current City regulations on water usage.  At times water restrictions are implemented and vigorously enforced due to water shortages.)

How can a car wash pollute our creeks?
A car wash is a great way to have fun while raising funds for your school or community group.  But did you know that if soap water enters the storm drain system it will flow directly to the nearest creek?  Soap (even if it is biodegradable) is a pollutant that can be harmful to fish and other aquatic life that depend on clean water for their survival.  Car wash water in addition to the soap used can carry pollutants such as dirt, oil, and other automotive fluids that may go directly into our creeks.  It may be best to have a car wash located over a grassy surface,  instead of a parking lot that has an impervious surface.

Once the car wash is over can soap residue harm creeks?
Yes, rain can wash the soap into the storm drain system where it can then pollute creeks.  If the car wash area is not on a grassed surface, it is a good idea at the end of the car wash, while the storm drain protection is still in place, to thoroughly rinse down the wash area and properly dispose of the rinse water.

Is it possible to host a car wash that doesn't pollute creeks?
Yes, you can have to select a site where the wash water can be disposed of without it entering a storm drain.  The City of Mesquite has personnel that can help you determine if the site is appropriate and offer suggestions on how to dispose of the water.

How do I keep car wash water from entering the storm drain system?
Yes, you just have to select a site where the wash water can be disposed of without it entering a storm drain.  If the car wash area is not on a grassed surface, it is a good idea at the end of the car wash, while the storm drain protection is still in place, to thoroughly rinse down the wash area and properly dispose of the rinse water.

Is it possible to host a car wash that doesn't pollute creeks?
Yes, you just have to select a site where the wash water can be disposed of without it entering a storm drain.  The City of Mesquite has personnel that can help  you determine if the site is appropriate and offer suggestions on how to dispose of the water.

How do I keep car wash water from entering the storm drain system?
There are several ways you can do this.  Use your imagination and the ideas below to figure out what will work best.
  • Wash the cars in a place where the natural drainage pattern will route wash water into a vegetated area such as a lawn or vacant lot.  Be sure to have the owner's permission if wash water is draining onto a neighboring property.  You might be able to use sand bags, rolled towels, hoses, or other materials to divert the surface runoff to the vegetated area.  Use boards on the grass to prevent rutting.
  • Another way is to seal off the storm drain, collect the water, and use a small sump pump to pump the water to either a vegetated area or into a clean out opening to the sanitary sewer.

How do I seal off a storm drain?
Many parking lots have grated inlets placed in low areas.  If the grate can be removed, remove it and place a sheet of heavy plastic over the inlet that extends beyond the edges.  Replace the grate.  Then put a heavy rubber mat or a lighter rubber mat with weights on it over the grate.  Be sure to form a tight, waterproof seal that will keep all water out of the storm drain.  If the grate cannot be removed place plastic sheeting and then rubber mats over the top of it.  Rolled up towels can be placed around the edge of the mat to increase its water tightness.

Some parking lots drain through openings in the side of the curbs called catch basins.  Catch basins can be sealed off with a sheet of heavy plastic topped with sand bags or other weights.  Again, be sure the seal is tight before  ou start washing cars.

If the car wash site drains into the stret and then inot the storm drain, be aware that sealing storm drains in the street is not allowed.  It can create a traffic hazard and also endanger those running the pump.  You must use a catch basin on private property with the owner's permission.

Where do I get a sump pump?
Sump pumps are available at equipment rental store for $15 - $20 per day.  (They are commonly used to remove water from basements.)  Or perhaps someone in your group has a pump that they would be willing to lend.

Is any other equipment necessary?
You will need a hose to carry water from the pump to either the sanitary sewer clean out or the vegetated area.  An extension cord will probably be needed along with a source of electricity.  A broom may also be handy to sweep water towards the pump or to spread the water out so it will evaporate.

Does the pump need to be turned on all the time?

No.  Some pumps will automatically turn on when the water level reaches a certain depth.  Otherwise, someone has to be responsible to turn the pump on and off as water accumulates and is pump away.  A pump that is left running without water flowing through it to cool the motor can overheat and be damaged.
This all sounds pretty complicated.  How can I be sure that our car wash is set up properly?
City staff is available to answer your questions and even tour the site with you.  We can offer suggestions and help you determine the best way to keep wash water out of the storm drain system.  Call the Storm Water Specialist for assistance at 972-329-8537 or Environmental Code at 972-329-8704.