Stormwater Fact of the Month from Environmental Health and Safety


VehicleMaintenanceOutdoor car washing results in large amounts of dirt, road grime, oil, and heavy metals flowing into the Ohio River or other local streams. The soapy water used to wash the car flows down the street and into storm drains. Water that enters the storm drains can travel directly to the Ohio River and other streams without being cleaned.

Commercial Car Wash – This is the best option to keep harmful chemicals from entering our streams and rivers. Commercial car-wash water is recycled and sent to the wastewater plant for treatment.

At Home – When washing your car at home, wash it on your lawn so the wash water can soak into the ground and pollutants will be removed. Use phosphorous-free soap to decrease the amount of nutrients entering our streams and rivers. Excess nutrients decrease water quality and also harm fish and plant life.

Car Maintenance

Safe Disposal of Chemicals
Never pour vehicle waste, including oil and antifreeze, into storm drains, septic systems or onto the ground. If you change your own oil, you can recycle your used oil at an auto care center such as Advance Autoparts or AutoZone. Just get a reusable container, such as a clean milk jug or soda bottle, and drain the oil carefully into the container, avoiding splatter and spills. Seal the container securely and mark it “oil.”

Fix Leaks
Fix oil leaks right away. In the short term, place drip pans or cardboard under your car to prevent oil from reaching the Ohio River and local creeks. Stormwater runoff containing just one pint of oil can make a slick larger than a football field. Know where you will store and dispose of materials before beginning a do-it-yourself project.

Give Your Car a Break
Reduce the time and money you spend on car maintenance by leaving your car at home more often. Carpool with a friend, take the bus, walk or bike to work at least once a week.

Proper Maintenance and Cleaning of Motor Vehicles can greatly reduce the amount of pollutants entering the Ohio River and other streams via stormwater.

The used oil from one oil change can contaminate 1 million gallons of freshwater — a year’s supply for 50 people.

Along with oil these materials are also problems:

  • Solvents (paints and paint thinners)
  • Antifreeze
  • Brake fluid and brake lining
  • Batteries
  • Motor oils
  • Fuels (gasoline, diesel, kerosene)
  • Lubricating grease.