Many people don’t realize that the foundations of the EPA’s Clean Water Act actually date all the way back to 1948, as the federal government took action to regulate water pollution. In the same way, many fleet managers don’t realize they risk violating that same act and paying heavy fines if the runoff from their fleet washing is not correctly managed.
The simple fact is, the water used to wash the trucks, rigs or cars that make up your fleet is legally not allowed to enter surface waters. That means it can’t be allowed to simply soak into the ground or disappear down a storm drain if it’s running off of an impervious surface.
To be compliant with the Clean Water Act, fleet managers must make sure water is captured and disposed of properly, either through a drainage system that filters and treats the water so that it can be safely released, or by capturing it the way a professional service like Fleet Clean does, and then disposing of it properly.
The costs of compliance
Some businesses do have setups that keep them compliant, with built-in systems as part of their wash bays that channel the water into the proper place. These companies have gone to the expense of building the wash bays to manage the runoff and have the proper permitting. Many businesses, however, don’t want to spend the money to build such expensive drainage systems. And then what do they risk? The high costs of not complying if caught. According to one environmental consultant, the costs of not being EPA-compliant can run into tens of thousands of dollars in fines alone. On top of that, businesses face potential loss of income and even jail time. Now that’s expensive!
Other businesses might use a water reclamation system, gathering the water from the impervious surface. They don’t have the expense of the drainage system, but they are still required to dispose of the wastewater properly or risk the same fines and potential jail time.
Your business is at risk if your vendor is not compliant
If you think outsourcing your fleet washing means you don’t have to worry about any of this, think again. Your business can get into trouble if you are not knowledgeable about these EPA regulations and ensure that your vendor is compliant.
Many wash vendors don’t know about the regulations or the permits they need. Some don’t even reclaim the water, and only let it disappear into the ground or storm drains–which is exactly what the Clean Water Act is trying to prevent. But don’t think the vendor will take the fall if found out. What happens to your wastewater is ultimately your responsibility. And your company could be in serious trouble with the EPA if your vendor is found out.
How to ensure compliance
Could you afford any EPA fines that might be charged to your business if it’s discovered your runoff is illegally entering the water system, either as the result of your actions or your vendor’s? How much would it cost you to have your business completely shut down? These are real risks you must consider.
Then there’s the option of installing your own drainage system and getting your own permitting, to ensure compliance and protect your business: Is this a hassle or expense you want to take on?
You don’t have to risk fines or invest in an expensive setup, however. There is one easy and cost-effective way to ensure your company is compliant and therefore safe from fines or penalties: Outsource your fleet cleaning to a vendor that knows the regulations and abides by them, with proper permitting in place.
For example, Fleet Clean is an EPA compliant fleet washing vendor. We practice water reclamation: We capture the water, filter it, then dispose of it properly. Each of our locations disposes of the water through a permitted means, having been granted permission by the municipality to discharge into one of their sanitary sewers.
It is possible to be EPA compliant on your own, by investing in wash bays that enable it and getting the proper permitting. But consider how much easier it would be to outsource your fleet washing to a reputable vendor and know that EPA compliance is handled on your behalf!
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