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I read your October 2009 editorial with great interest. The studies and reports that indicate charity carwashes without containment systems are bad for the environment do justify action by the carwash industry to make this data known to the appropriate people. However, the means to inform the public must be carefully considered.
Several years ago I attended a PTA meeting at my children’s school. Someone suggested a carwash to raise funds for the PTA programs. I advised the committee about the environmental concerns and suggested they consider using a professional carwash. That suggestion went over like a lead balloon. I could tell the mothers were skeptical because they knew I owned a carwash. I believe the public is naturally skeptical in situations such as these, where a person stands to make money from the action.
Over the last couple of decades I have read about different industries forming their own environmental groups. Instead of a lot of individual carwash owners running around giving their own version of what these reports mean to the environment, perhaps the carwash industry should consider forming an environmental group to present these findings in a precise and consistent manner. This group could also represent the industry on a lobbying basis during any government-sponsored hearings about the dangers of carwash effluent being discharged into the environment.
Do we want to take the risk of allowing Joe Carwash to make a misstatement to the press about the dangers of residential or charity carwashing? (All the press would need to do is point out that his statements are not correct before journalists, and then community members, think the carwash industry has made the whole thing up to make more money.) If the press points out that the statement is not true then the community sees the carwash industry as misleading them for financial gain.
I feel some things need to happen prior to the carwash industry making comments about charity carwashes. The International Carwash Association and regional carwash associations should include sessions on this topic at their annual conferences. We need to know specifics and have a joint effort being made that is consistent and fact based message being presented across the country.
Perhaps different items need to be addressed for different regions. For example, the Chesapeake Bay environmental laws enacted here in the Mid-Atlantic States have been deemed inadequate and the Federal EPA is stepping in to enforce federal standards to help clean up the Bay. I am assuming there will be hearings held on this matter. Would it not be advisable for the carwash industry to have an environmental group monitoring and presenting the problems with driveway and charity washes at any hearing?
Your editorial makes good points encouraging our industry to take action. But I suggest we not turn every operator loose to make the case in his/her own manner. Let’s develop a strategy and policy first and then promote it through an organized fact based group.
Solar Shine Carwash