Ask the Expert, Special Topics in Environmental Management

Do I Need a Stormwater Permit to Wash a Delivery Fleet with Car Soap?

Q: We are considering washing our delivery fleet on a weekly basis with generic car soap. What concerns do I need to take into account with regards to the run off? Do I need a recapture system for the run off? Do I need a permit?

A: Vehicle fleet washing is considered a nonstormwater discharge that can result in adverse water quality issues especially if detergents or soaps are used. Soapy water and chemicals in many detergents can be harmful to fish and other aquatic life.

Some states require that car washes as well as vehicle and equipment washdowns obtain either a specific permit for discharges from vehicle washing or, alternatively, that these vehicle washdown operations seek coverage under NPDES general permit for industrial activities.

As for your concerns to runoff, you will need to make sure the vehicle washdown and runoff does not contain other types of wastewater that may require permit coverage under a different NPDES permit. Permittees must also conduct monitoring and submit discharge monitoring reports (DMRs).