Local car wash becomes clean water advocate
CHICO -- Local car wash detailer Gerald Russ Schimdt of Russ' Auto Detailing has become the first car washing business in Chico to join the Clean Water Business Partners program, a local effort to protect polluted water from running into creeks and groundwater.
After seeing where environmental regulations were going, Schmidt decided to purchase a water recovery and cleaning system — a $30,000 device made to strip pollution from his wash water. He then uses the cleaned water again in the process.
"It's not a requirement, but it's the right thing to do," said Schmidt.
Jennifer Oman agrees.
Oman is the consultant hired by the city to administer the clean water program, and praises Schmidt's effort.
In setting up the Clean Water Business Partners program, Oman initially approached carpet cleaners and landscapers who send their waste water into street storm drains. Street gutters feed into storm drains and eventually into creeks and the Sacramento River.
Oman said she's now turning to other industries, such as car washes.
The car wash business at 251 Panama Ave. has an enclosed bay for car washing that is served by a drain and pipeline into the water tank.
Saying he understands not all businesses can afford such expensive equipment as his water cleaner, they should be concerned that their wash water goes into the city sewers, rather than down street gutters and into the storm drain system where it can impact creeks, Schmidt said.
There's no cost to become a Clean Water Business Partner, and it can benefit a business, with promotion of the company on the program's Web site, brochures, advertising and more.
Business information is also included in the annual Clean Chico Creeks calendar.
"While the city looks at it as storm water management, it's really pollution prevention," Oman said.
For some business owners, there's no realization of the connection between their business' waste water and creek pollution.
"That's why it's an education program. It's actually an incentive program," Oman noted.
In becoming a partner, businesses promise to educate their customers about preventing water pollution, among other steps, none of which are complex or hard.
"Right now there are incentives like this program to prevent pollution, but ultimately there will be standards to comply with," Oman said.
Keep Chico Clean is a cooperative effort of the city of Chico and Butte County Department of Public Works.
Since the program began several years ago, Oman has gained 23 members, ranging from carpet cleaners and general contractors to painters, plant nurseries and landscapers.
She is also reaching out to local business counseling and support programs to spread word about the Clean Water Business Partners program.
More information on the program is at www.keepchicoclean.org. The Web site includes a list of businesses that follow best-management practices to prevent runoff pollution.
The above article appeared in the Chico Enterprise-Record on May 31, 2009.