Worried about pollution from mobile car washers

| 25/02/2018

Ask Auntie, CNS Local Life, Caymanian statusDoes any government body police the mobile car washes with regards to the chemicals they use and let seep into the ground water? I would imagine Department of Environment or Department of Environmental Health should be looking out for our interests but I have never seen any attempt to control the disposal of the chemical wash off. Some even spray petroleum-based compounds on the tires that spills and leaches into the ground. There are so many of these mobile units in the Eastern Avenue and Godfrey Nixon Way plazas and the chemical stains left behind mark the asphalt, so cannot be good for leaching into the environment and ground water. On another note, does anyone even police to see they have Trade and Business Licences?

Auntie’s answer: It turns out that there are three departments involved in the regulation of mobile car washers so I will deal with each of them separately.  As you suggested, the Department of Environmental Health does have a part to play.

A DEH representative explained that the department’s engineering section inspects mobile car washers once they apply for a Trade and Business licence. The main focus of that check is to look at the added water supply required for the business.

Specifically, DEH inspectors look to ensure that any new such business has a properly functioning water storage tank, power washer, generator and garbage container. But the official also stressed that “environmental health officers are empowered to inspect these vehicles if they are deemed a public nuisance”.

Anyone wishing to complain about a mobile car washer possibly polluting the environment can email the DEH.

Additionally, the Department of Commerce and Investment undertakes weekly random inspections in all areas, a DCI official said, estimating that more than 160 were done in January. And if anyone suspects a business or individual is operating without a licence he or she is asked to email DCI.

There is one other aspect to your question and this involves the Water Authority. Confirming your concerns, a representative explained there is the “potential for groundwater pollution from car wash and detailing products discharged directly to drains designed for stormwater drainage. In addition to the potential for pollution, there is also the potential for fouling (plugging) wells designed to drain stormwater.”

Unfortunately, it was also pointed out that unlike “site-built car wash facilities, applications for mobile car wash services are not subject to the planning process, which includes review by the Water Authority for wastewater requirements”.

The official explained that this gap has led to the spread of mobile car washers without adequate oversight, adding that there is an increasing number of complaints about these businesses. “Regulation after-the-fact is challenging in any case and more so in the case of mobile operations that can simply move to another site,” the representative said.

To try to address this issue, the Water Authority first attempts educational outreach to licensed mobile car wash businesses and commercial facilities that let these services operate on their lots. In addition, the authority coordinates efforts with DEH and DCI, since they inspect and license the mobile operators.

The authority also publishes best management practices (BMP) brochures. Two that are relevant to mobile car washers can be found on the authority’s website, one on waste oil management and one on stormwater drains.

The Water Authority representative also told me this: “As a result of this query, we are also working to draft a BMP brochure specific to mobile car washers that will clarify the legal responsibility of these operators with respect to groundwater protection.” And before anyone complains in advance about how long it will take for this new brochure to be available, the authority expects to publish it sometime this week.

And, finally, in addition to contacting the DEH, anyone who wants to register a complaint about a mobile car washer can email the Water Authority.

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Category: Ask Auntie, Environmental Questions

Comments (8)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    i’d more worried what they are doing to your paintwork…..

  2. Anonymous says:

    How about noise from mobile car-washes? Power washer hose jets and vacuums cause high noise levels.

  3. Anonymous says:

    …. possibly polluting the environment….” You can’t make it up.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Educational outreach = yeh we tell ‘em bout it

  5. Anonymous says:

    Are you suggesting immigration has no role to play in regulating these guys? Hardly a Caymanian among them.

    • Anonymous says:

      Well when they are hired, they last 1 week maximum because “sun too hot”.

    • Local this local that!!! says:

      What with the constant out cry about immigration for every problem on this island!! Hello fun fact it still take a local to hire them and local own the company or is part of it! Wake up!!! This island is wasting and you some how feel the locals are not to blame for most of its own problems! Locals are selling out locals so to fix the problem fix the mind set of the locals