Automotive Repair Services

How Do Auto Repair Businesses Affect Stormwater?

  • Oil, grease, anti-freeze and other toxic automotive fluids are often disposed improperly into the city’s storm drain system, contaminating our local rivers and streams.
  • Spills that take place at automotive repair shops, if not properly cleaned, also end up in the storm sewers.
  • Phosphates from detergents used to wash cars run off into waterways and cause destructive algae blooms.

Automotive Fluids

  • Keep used automotive fluids separate from other trash. Many fluids can be recycled via hazardous waste-disposal companies if they are not mixed together.
  • Store all materials under cover with spill containment or inside to prevent contamination of rainwater runoff.
  • Recycle used motor oil and oil filters, anti-freeze and other hazardous automotive fluids, batteries, tires and metal filings collected from grinding/polishing auto parts.
  • Contact a licensed hazardous waste hauler to remove hazardous materials.

Cleaning Auto Parts

  • To clean automotive parts, scrape them with a wire brush or use a bake oven rather than liquid cleaners.
  • While cleaning, arrange drip pans, drying racks and drain boards so that fluids are directed back into the sink or the fluid holding tank.
  • Do not wash parts or equipment in a parking lot, driveway or street.
  • Place drip pans underneath vehicles to capture all leaks and spills.
  • Use absorbent cleaning agents instead of water to clean work areas.
  • Keep a bin under your lathe or grinder to capture metal filings. Store metal filings in a covered container or indoors. Send uncontaminated filings to a scrap metal recycler for reclamation.

Cleaning Up Spills

  • Use dry methods for spill cleanup (sweeping, absorbent materials, etc.)
  • Follow a hazardous materials response plan, as filed with your local fire department or other hazardous materials authority, to address any spills.
  • Be sure that all employees are aware of the spill clean up protocol and hazardous materials response plan and are capable of implementing it.
  • Report serious spills by calling 911.

Vehicle Washing

  • Wash vehicles at a commercial car wash to avoid stormwater runoff pollution.
  • If vehicles are washed on-site, designate an area for vehicle washing that has been bermed up to contain polluted wash water and dispose of it into the sewer.
  • If vehicles are not washed in a contained space, wash vehicles on gravel, grass or another permeable surface away from the street and storm drains, so the ground can filter the water naturally.
  • Use soap sparingly. Use soaps that are labeled “phosphate-free” or biodegradable. Phosphates are nutrients that can cause problems for nearby waterways. Vegetable-based and citrus-based soaps are safest.
  • Use minimum amounts of water to avoid producing excessive runoff and detergent residues. Use a hose that is high pressure, low volume. Use a hose with a nozzle that automatically turns off when left unattended or one that has a pistol grip or trigger nozzle to save water. Wash one section of the vehicle at a time and rinse it quickly.
  • When done, empty bucket of soapy water into a sink or toilet, not the street.
  • When holding a charity car wash event, block off the storm drain or use an insert with a vacuum pump to catch wash water and empty it into the sink, not the street.


For More Information:
EPA’s Consolidated Screening Checklist For Automotive Repair Facilities Guidebook

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