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Hand Car Washes Pose Environmental Threat

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The exponential growth in car sales in India is causing a water crisis in a land already suffering from severe drought.

In cities like Karachi, 80% of the car washes are using fresh water at the rate of 45 million litres per car wash per month. With more than 3,000 car wash station the city, the public supply is losing 135 billion litres a month.

To make matters worse, most of that water is returned to the public drainage system, contaminated with the oils and greases from the vehicles being washed. There is a complete lack of water treatment systems.

But this doesn’t happen in the UK, does it? Um, yes. There are thousands of unregulated hand car wash outlets often with illegal employment conditions and unfair business practices forcing compliant car washes to close.

Wastewater from vehicle washing can harm the environment and pollute rivers, streams and groundwater. The dirt removed from cars, including oil and other contaminants can pollute water sources. Cleaning agents can be harmful to wildlife and plant life. DEFRA issues guidance to operators on the safe handling of such chemicals.

Pollution caused by car wash effluent through car wash solids and chemicals pose a serious threat to our environment and are key issues that have attracted the attention of the Environmental Audit Committee who have launched an inquiry into the industry.

The committee said: “Oil, dirt and cleaning products are often not disposed of correctly, which could be having a significant impact on local water sources and wildlife. The Independent Anti-Slavery Commission has also expressed concerns about the exploitation of the workforce at hand car washes.  We are concerned about the cost to the public purse of tackling criminality, including trafficking, tax evasion and enforcement of minimum wage law.”

One of the victims of the epidemic of hand-car washes is the automated car washes which usually have specialist water recycling systems and processes to clean dirty water before release back into the public drainage network.

Kirton supplies many of these water treatment facilities with reclaim systems which can recycle up to 90% of dirty water, removing the contaminants through processes known as carbon filtration and reverse osmosis. Carbon filtration uses a bed of carbon to capture the dirt particles as water passes through and Reverse Osmosis fires water under pressure at a fine screen to capture unwanted particles.

On average these water treatment systems can recycle up to 90% of wastewater, returning if for use in the car wash system.

Washing your car at home may save a few pounds on cleaning costs but uses almost five times as much water as a commercial system and once again releases contaminated waste into the ground or drains.

You can find out more about our work with vehicle wash systems here.

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