Man drove car into river to wash it...
MONROE — On July 9, a 62-year-old Sultan man was cited for releasing an “unwholesome substance” into the Skykomish River at the Lewis Street boat launch. He put his car in the river and got stuck in a failed attempt to wash it, from what he told police. The result was his 2000 Toyota Camry needing to be towed out and the driver being arrested and possibly fined between $103 and $5,000.
The car’s owner stated he drove down the boat ramp onto the exposed river bank with the intent to wash his car when he got stuck. The arresting officer’s report states the driver was not drunk or on drugs.
An oily sheen was reported on the water surface by the responding officer. City Stormwater Compliance Coordinator Vince Bertrand was called to the scene to inspect the car for leaks. It was determined the pollution was from accumulated road grime.
The man was cited and arrested for littering.
The issue with the attempted riverside wash is that not even boats are supposed to be washed at a boat launch, let alone a car.
Larry Altose, a spokesman for the state Department of Ecology, expressed the importance of proper boat launch protocols for cars and boats.
He said boats are to be washed in designated areas. This is not only to avoid introducing an invasive species to the local waters, but to prevent polluting the river with detergents. The phosphates in soaps and other detergents take up free oxygen in water, upsetting the food cycle for marine life and suffocating fish.
Washing a car introduces pollutants other than detergents, mainly oil. Altose explained that oil (commonly from the car’s crankcase) is “directly toxic” and can introduce mechanical problems to animals such as damaging fish gills and preventing waterfowl from being able to float. Any filter feeding animal, like clams, can become inedible due to the pollutants, if not die altogether.
“Many cities have guidelines for washing cars,” Altose said. The most common guidelines are to wash your car at carwash where the used water is separate from the storm drains and then recycled. However, if you’re washing your car at home, Altose said to do it in your yard to prevent the runoff from entering the storm drain system, which keeps phosphates away from marine animals.
The Monroe Police Department and the Department of Ecology for Washington State emphasize that boat launches are for taking watercraft in and out of water only, and that boats and cars should be washed in the proper designated areas.
Check out our online publications!