Celebrate Earth Day April 22, 2021

county of san diego watershed protection program


Earth Day

Celebrate Earth Day – Car Care Pollution-Prevention Tips


Let’s celebrate Earth Day 2021 on April 22 by kicking off our spring-cleaning efforts while being mindful of ways we can prevent water pollution and protect our waterways. This month, the County of San Diego is specifically highlighting automotive maintenance activities as a major source of water pollution. If not handled or disposed of properly, oil and other toxic automotive fluids, as well as wash water and detergents, can flow into our storm drain system and eventually reach our waterways. Unlike our sanitary sewer system, water that flows through our storm drain system is NOT TREATED and can have harmful effects on our water quality, aquatic, and even human health.

Pollutants from Automotive Maintenance

  • Car maintenance generates liquid waste such as antifreeze, fuel, cleaners, and oils that can degrade our water quality if not contained on site and disposed of correctly.
  • When cars are washed metals from brake dust such as chromium, cadmium, copper, lead, and zinc can be found in the wash water. Unfortunately, these have the potential to contaminate drinking water supplies as well as harm aquatic life if they flow into storm drains.
  • Detergents and cleaners used to wash cars often contain high levels of phosphorus, which is a leading cause of harmful algae blooms.
  • Releasing pollutants directly or indirectly into the storm drain system is a violation of the County’s Watershed Protection Ordinance (WPO). Only rainwater is allowed in the streets and storm drains.

Car Care Pollution-Prevention Tips

Make a difference this Earth Day and every day by practicing these common tips to prevent automotive pollutants from reaching our storm drain system:

  • Use Best Management Practices (BMPs) -- BMPs are techniques or controls used to prevent the discharge of pollutants, such as oil, antifreeze, and detergents from entering the storm drain system.
    • Proper handling and disposal of auto fluids: Check vehicles for fluid leaks and make repairs as soon as possible. Place drip pans underneath vehicles to capture fluids. Sweep or use absorbent materials (such as kitty litter) instead of water to clean up work areas and spills.
    • Proper vehicle washing: Wash your vehicles on a landscaped area or permeable pavement to prevent runoff and allow the ground to filter the water naturally. Use soap sparingly and pour your bucket of soapy water down the sink rather than into the street. Whenever possible, use commercial car washes – not only do they recycle wash water, but they also help to prevent runoff from occurring in the first place.
    • Tips for Mobile Vehicle Washing Businesses: See our Mobile Vehicle Washing flyer for pollution-prevention tips specific to mobile vehicle washers.
    • Dispose of Waste Thoughtfully: Hazardous waste materials such as antifreeze, motor oil, and transmission fluid must be disposed of at an authorized Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) collection facility. For more information see our Automotive Recycling Guide, visit wastefreesd.org or call 1-877-R-1-EARTH (1-877-713-2784).  For more tips and pollution-prevention activities you can do to celebrate Earth Day this month and all year long, visit our Educational Handouts webpage.
Care Care Wash on the Lawn


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Watershed Protection Website


New Project Clean Water

Project Clean Water efforts are focused on providing a centralized point of access to water quality information and resources for San Diego County Watersheds. Click HERE to visit Project Clean Water’s website. 

To learn more about the County of San Diego - Watershed Protection Program, please visit sandiegocounty.gov/stormwater