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News from the Industry

October 11, 2010
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Train wash may be connected to Legionnaires' death
A Chicago Train Authority (CTA) employee died from complications of Legionnaires' Disease after working with another CTA electrician on a train washing machine.

The worker contracted the disease this August. He had been working on a train washing equipment when a blast of stagnant water struck him in the nose, mouth and face. The next day he became very ill with an extremely high fever and died shortly after.

The Legionella bacteria occurs naturally in the environment but can increase with warm re-circulating water, such as cooling towers. Symptoms include headaches, fever, chills, coughs and muscle aches and pains.

According to CTA officials, no other employees have shown signs of Legionnaires' Disease, and, spokeswoman Noelle Gaffney said, "There is no evidence that the illness was contracted at CTA." However, the CTA said it alerted 800 workers of the potential for contracting the disease and has shut down the train washing machine and similar devices.

Afterward, employees received another letter saying "while there was nothing to indicate that the disease was contracted at a CTA location and, in fact, the Dept. of Health said that the CTA did not need to take any action, the CTA decided to proactively hire an outside environmental firm to test and clean the equipment in question," Gaffney said.

In May of 2008, an outbreak of Legionnaires' in an Australian city was traced back to a self-serve carwash, and in August 2007, Professional Carwashing & Detailing reported a contaminated bus washing facility in Albany, NY, caused two workers to become infected with Legionnaires’ disease. There were no fatalities in either case.

Senior lenders take control of IMO Car Wash
Senior lenders of the world’s largest carwash chain, IMO Car Wash, have been granted control of the company following a ruling by a London court.

The landmark decision, which took place over three days in a packed courtroom, came as a blow to junior lenders and could affect other rulings in debt restructuring cases.

As PC&D previously reported, junior lenders opposed the plan, as it weakened their position in restructuring bids.

Mace considers sale of two TX carwashes
Mace Security International, Inc., a manufacturer of self defense products as well as an operator of carwashes, has entered into agreements to sell a carwash in Lubbock, TX, and another in Arlington, TX.

The price for the two sites is approximately $1.8 million. The company, which at one time was among the largest conveyor carwash chains, hopes to exit the carwash business entirely as soon as economically possible.

Carwash worker rally draws hundreds
A billboard outside the Vermont Hand Wash in downtown Los Angeles was taken down before it was unveiled at a protest for carwash worker rights.

Representatives of the American Federation of Labor – Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) accused Vermont Hand Wash of pressuring CBS Billboard to pull the sign down before the rally. The billboard statement read: “Wash Away Injustice! Support Carwash Workers.”

AFL-CIO chose Vermont Hand Wash, operated by Benny and Nisan Pirian, because of its recent acknowledgement of unfair labor practices.

The rally was intended to unite carwash workers who wish to start a union. AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, members of Congress and local union, clergy and community leaders attended the rally, as did hundreds of carwash workers.

PC&D reported last year that carwash workers throughout Los Angeles had formed the Carwash Workers Organizing Committee (CWOC) of the United Steelworkers (USW) in an effort to form a union.

Workers win unfair labor dispute against carwash
The United Steelworkers (USW) and the CLEAN Carwash Campaign announced they had reached a formal settlement with Vermont Hand Wash, the Los Angeles carwash at the center of the union protest, just days after the rally. The groups filed an unfair labor practice complaint against the wash in late 2008.

The agreement authorizes the National Labor Relations Board in Washington, D.C. to enter a cease and desist order precluding Vermont Hand Wash from violating 27 specific labor law requirements as well as a broad prohibition on violating the National Labor Relations Act “in any other manner or by any other means.”

Under terms of the agreement, Vermont Hand Wash must also compensate employees for back pay and reinstate any workers fired for participating in the organizing campaign, as well as compensate them for time lost when the employer unplugged the time clock during union demonstrations.

The release said the back pay awards include:

• $52,442 to four employees who were fired or saw their hours cut as a result of the organizing campaign.

• $8,925 to be distributed to employees in return for management’s decision to unplug the time clock during union picketing.

WA region begins TV spots about home carwashing
Thirty-second television spots explaining proper carwashing techniques have begun airing in the Puget Sound region.

The Puget Sound Starts Here campaign is encouraging residents to wash their vehicles on porous surfaces such as lawns, purchase carwash kits that redirect soapy wastewater into sanitary sewer systems, or simply use water alone. It is not clear if professional carwash services are mentioned in the TV spots.

Cities across the state of Washington have passed new ordinances to adopt stricter anti-pollution standards for their storm water systems following a state mandate which requires them to step-up anti-pollution efforts. The state is urging municipalities to take an educational approach rather than enforce laws against home carwashing.

Washman opens a 12th NW location
Mark and Kirk Hanna have opened their 12th Washman location in Sandy, OR.

The newest Washman includes a detail center and a family friendly lounge area. Like other Washman locations, it is environmentally friendly and reclaims and recycles all of its water and only uses biodegradable soaps and chemicals.

Last year, the chain ranked 42 in the list of the Top 50 conveyor carwash chains.

Study: Home washing puts pollutants in stormwater
New research from the University of California, Davis, suggests that previous studies may have underestimated the role of residential homes in water pollution by up to 50 percent.

Researchers monitored homes in eight different neighborhoods across California and found that activities such as garden watering or residential carwashing can cause a significant amount of pollutants to come into storm drains.

The study further found the concentration of pesticides in water runoff is higher during dry seasons and previous models underestimated home water pollution because they relied on data only from the rainy season.