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Include Runoff Abatement Measures In Pressure Washing Services

Companies that provide pressure washing services are legally required to make provision for runoff abatement for protection of the environment.

The Clean Water Act Controls Pressure Washing Services 

The Clean Water Act definitively prohibits the discharge of pressure washing waste directly into any national waters without specifically mandated treatment and testing. Further protection for the environment is that a special permit must be obtained specifically for the site on which the pressure washing is to occur.

Since most pressure washing services operate mobile units and cannot always predict a specific location, nor are they usually set up to administer involved testing and monitoring, it is simpler and more cost-effective to implement runoff abatement strategies to prevent waste from reaching national waterways. As long as this is done, the operation is exempt from the oversight of the EPA.

Pressure Washing Must Conform to City, County, and State Laws 

It behooves a conscientious business owner or manager to inform himself of local and state ordinances. Since these are not consistent from one municipality to another, no exact list can be offered, but there are generally acceptable runoff abatement procedures.

General Pressure Washing and Runoff Abatement Rules

In the case of a commercial operation that regularly requires extensive or frequent pressure washing of equipment or surfaces, it is recommended that permanent facilities include such things as collection sumps and filtering or reclamation systems. Dedicated drains or pipes can run to collection tanks or to sewage lines that are legally approved for carrying such wastes.

For All Other Situations, These – in sequence – Are Recommended:
  • Pre-cleaning through trash removal, sweeping, vacuuming, street sweeping, and cleaning
  • Spot pre-washing of stains and deposits of oils, chemicals, and other matter, with attention given to use of EPA approved cleansers and solvents, absorbents, etc.
  • Placement of temporary berms, dams, plugs, etc. designed to prevent runoff from reaching storm and sewer drains
  • Thorough pressure washing using equipment that allows recycling or self-collecting of water and cleansers whenever and wherever possible
  • Spot wet-vacuuming of any standing water or other liquids
  • Spot cleanup of any residual dirt, trash, or other matter flushed out during power washing, with special attention to areas around drains and temporary berms, dams, and plugs
Special Note:

When buildings are pressure washed, it is advisable and sometimes a local or state legal requirement to collect the paint chips blown off the building during the cleaning process because older buildings may still have leaded paint on them.

Note that, in some cases, non-toxic solution and waste may be diverted to an area where it may then be allowed to evaporate or to a location where there is a sufficient volume of sand, gravel, and/or grass to provide natural filtering action and act as an environmental buffer between the waste and our national waters.

Why You Need This Information 

Even if you hire professional pressure washing and street sweeping services, you need to understand the legal runoff abatement requirements for several reasons:

  1. Armed with the general concepts provided here, you will be able to evaluate the kind of job your pressure washing service is doing for you.
  2. If correct procedures aren’t followed, even though your hired service was at fault, it may be you and/or your company that will be fined if there is an infraction of the rules. The cost of many of these fines is very steep, and even if, ultimately, you don’t have to pay, it is better to avoid the aggravation and the undesirable attention from government authorities.
  3. It is always good to have some knowledge of, and appreciation for, the work that is to be done. I always recommend knowing what the job involves and hiring only those professionals who are capable of doing it well.

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