Avoid Pollution From Washdown Activities at Automotive Salvage and Recycling Yards

Owners and operators of an automotive salvage or recycling business are required by the Clean Water Act to obtain a stormwater permit. There are very few exceptions to this rule so if you own or operate such a business; you are out of compliance unless you have this permit. As part of your Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP), you must describe potential on-site sources of pollution and develop measures and controls as well as the Best Management Practices (BMPs) that will be put into effect.

The EPA considers a BMP for washing areas for salvaged vehicles, parts and equipment as essential and makes the following recommendations:

    1.    Avoid washing equipment or parts outside.

    2.    Use phosphate-free, biodegradable detergents.

    3.    Consider using detergent based or water-based cleaning systems instead of organic solvent degreasers.

    4.    Designate a specific area for these cleaning activities.

    5.    Contain steam cleaning wash waters or discharges under an applicable NPDES permit.

    6.    Ensure that wash waters drain well and do not drain into a surface water body or a separate municipal stormwater sewer system.

    7.    Do not discharge waste water into a dry well.

    8.    All discharges which are authorized by your general stormwater permit must meet all applicable water standards.

    9.    Inspect cleaning areas regularly.

    10.   Install curbing, berms or dikes around cleaning areas to confine spills.

To comply with your stormwater permit, you must implement Best Management Practices to prevent polluted wastewater from being discharged into the storm sewers. Wash water from salvage yards can be harmful to humans, animals, plants, and fish if it is released untreated. In addition, if this wastewater is allowed to soak directly into the ground, it may contaminate both the ground water and the soil. Some newer systems in cities have separate sewer systems and when waste water is discharged into a storm sewer, it is directly discharged into a body of water – with its load of pollutants

Find out if the storm drain and sanitary sewers are combined or separate systems. Some are combined before the final discharge point, resulting in the treatment of most wastewater before it is discharged to surface water bodies such as lakes, rivers, or streams. If you do not know or are uncertain, take the following steps:

    1.    Use plugs on all floor drains.

    2.    An alternative measure is to install a sump, and see that it is pumped regularly.

    3.    Update your facility’s schematics accurately reflecting all plumbing connections.

    4.    Install safeguards to prevent vehicle washwater and water from cleaning parts from entering the storm sewer.

    5.    Inspect and maintain all underground storage tanks and replace when necessary.

Because regulations vary widely, contact the city’s storm water department or water department to determine the exact local requirements.