JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. —
The air flows thick with pollen every Spring as nature proclaims, “I’m alive and ready for the new year.” The ensuing blanket of yellow brings groans of dismay and the noise of a power washers running as people try to wash the unsightly pollen and other detritus off houses, vehicles, driveways and white picket fences. This is a natural response to: “Hey… it’s dirty and needs washing!”
“Is there a problem with washing my house? It’s all natural!” Actually, it all depends on how you wash the house. Gasoline is all natural too, but learning to handling gasoline safely is necessary because of certain dangers it presents. Similarly, washing outside structures presents certain hazards to the environment.
The volume of pollen is not easily controlled (without killing trees) and where it goes is up to the wind and rain. However, we can control where the wash water goes when cleaning outside structures. The dirty stuff on houses and cars is all natural. But when we concentrate the “dirty stuff,” it can become harmful to human health and the environment. The accumulated and concentrated “dirty stuff” can become smothering to plants, insects and aquatic life—just the same as it can for any concentrated waste.
The next time you’re washing your car, hosing out the barbeque grill, or pouring out the remains of last year’s Thanksgiving dinner, be thoughtful of where the wash water is going. Here is a list of where outside wash water should be directed to:
Water with grease/oils: Collect the water, and let the oil/grease solidify on top. Remove the solidified grease and dispose of as solid waste (i.e. garbage). Remove any layer of oil and dispose of at an approved oily waste collection center. Dispose of the remaining water in the sanitary sewer system.
Water with soap and detergents: Do not use detergents with phosphate when washing items outside. Direct the runoff away from sensitive vegetation like wetlands or drains that flow into creeks and rivers with aquatic animals. Try to direct the water runoff into vegetative areas that normally don’t have standing water (i.e. flower beds, lawns, wild stands of grasses, etc.).
Rinse water when spraying off buildings/vehicle: If not using soap, but simply removing mud and accumulation of dirt, use good judgment about where the water runoff goes. Heavy mud should not be flushed into a drain that may get clogged. Water laden with silt/pollen should be direct into vegetative areas that are normally dry, and away from waters that have aquatic animals.
The Stormwater Program manager at the Air Base is Mr. Earle Folger, (843) 963-1439, and at the Weapons Station, Mr. Kurtis Evans, (843) 963-1483. Call either on if you have further questions about stormwater of if you see a discharge that needs to be corrected/stopped.