BMPs and Regulations for
Cosmetic Mobile Power Pressure Washing
Reality of Enforcement
Robert M. Hinderliter
Environmental Chairman, Power Washers of North America
6418 Grovedale Drive, #101-B, Alexandra, VA 22310-2571
Phone: 800-393-7962, Fax: 703-971-7772, Website: www.pwna.org
President, Delco Cleaning Systems of Fort Worth
2513 Warfield Street, Fort Worth, Texas 76106-7554
Phone: 800-433-2113, Fax: 817-625-2059
www.dcs1.com , www.pressurewash.com , www.ikeca.com
Reality of Enforcement
*What Regulators are actually enforcing
*What the Contract Cleaner actually needs to know.
*What Contract Cleaners are actually doing.
NPDES Permits for cities and Urban Areas
1. Over 250,000 populations was due November 16, 1992
2. Over 100,000 populations was due October 1, 1993
(Note: A large number of Phase I Cities received 1 year or longer
extensions of these dates)
For Urban Areas whether incorporated or unincorporated were
due March 10, 2003
For all UA's 50, 000 to 100,000 population
10,000 to 50,000 population if notified by the AHJ
Cosmetic Mobile Power Washing in the most
basic terms is:
* No off property discharge
* Directing the waste wash water to sanitary
No off property discharge
1. Air Contamination
2. Surface Water
3. Ground Water (upper most aquifer)
Note: Some Regulators have been issuing citations for “Off
Property Discharge” when there is none!!!
Major Driving Forces that define the
Interpretation of the CWA
(Politically Unacceptable Definitions)
(Report Card on Regulators)
Who is an Environmentalist?
Everybody is an “Environmentalist”! However, how one
interprets that is usually based on how it affects their “economic
revenue stream” (income, wages, business revenue). An
Environmental Regulator brought this information to my attention.
Example: A large segment of the “Coin-op car wash industry”
believes that home owners should not be exempt for car washing
discharge to storm sewer as this creates a large source of pollution to
our storm sewers. This also holds true for charities (churches, girl
scouts, boy scouts, etc). Because of Political Activity by the Coin-
Op Car Wash Association (with a $500,000.00 budget) the San
Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board banned charity
washing during February of 2001 and they now have 24/7
enforcement by Mr. Don Moore, Code Compliance Officer.
Usually Government Employees are not risk takers. And
usually entrepreneurs are risk takers.
Government Employees survive by not taking risks or being
noticed. Do not expect regulators to rule in the Contractor’s
favor or interpret the regulations in the contractor’s favor if it
requires a risk on the Regulators part.
Advancement and Instability
Regulators Professional Advancement is often by moving through
different departments and/or agencies. Regulatory enforcement
and priorities normally change when this happens. This leads to
Enforcement Variation (Non-uniformity)
It is not unusual for regulators to vary enforcement standards based
on their perception and confidence that the Contract Cleaner will
follow appropriate procedures and BMPs.
The Big Problem
Cities or Urban Areas who don't know the pollutants in the
discharges or the volumes might be more likely to assume the
worst. And since they are on the hook if something goes wrong
at their wastewater treatment plant, they may react over-
cautiously on allowing discharge to a sanitary sewer.
(Notice the effect of the economic revenue stream)
Non-Storm Water Discharges
NPDES Permits allow only storm water to be discharged to the
MS4 and require an illicit detection and elimination program for
non-storm water discharges
Included in this program is detergent detection and elimination.
Phase I Cities have determined that detergents are the number one
pollutant in MS4s in many cases. And Mobile Power Wash
Contract Cleaners are a significant source of detergents and other
pollutions including: fats, oil, grease, solvents, and emulsified
While there must be an "effective prohibition" on non-storm water
discharges to the MS4, such discharges that are regulated by a
NPDES permit or fall within the city's list of "allowable non-
storm water" need not be treated as illicit discharges unless
you identify them as significant contributors of pollutants to
1. Individual residential car washing
2. Street wash water
3. Discharges or flows from fire fighting activities
4. Discharges from potable water sources
5. Dechlorinated swimming pool discharges
6. Lawn watering and more
EPA’s Responsibilities for Stormwater discharge
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not provide
written endorsements of products, processes, or technology. The
EPA responsibilities are directed at setting specific objectives
(discharge limits) that dischargers must meet to adequately
protect receiving waters of the United States. These objectives will
necessarily vary from site to site.
If anyone offers to sell you an EPA approved product (like detergent)
ask to see the documentation. I have never had a company be able
to produce this documentation for routine maintenance washing.
The EPA does not have an approval process for Products, Processes,
EPA set the standards for cities and states thru their National
Pollution Discharge Elimination System Program (NPDES Permits).
Cities Responsibilities for Stormwater
Each city can decide what products, processes, and technology
they are going to use to meet EPA Guidelines.
This means the rules will vary from city to city and sometimes from
site to site within the same city. Most Metropolitan areas will have
different rules for each city!
The main caused is:
*Jealousy between regulators
Secondary Causes are:
*Different interpretations of the CWA
*Different technologies and capabilities of the POTWs.
Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ)
Where wash water is discharged determines what Regulatory
Agency you must deal with. Discharge locations are:
•· Ground Water
•· Surface Water
•· Sanitary Sewer or the POTW
•· Private or Commercial Disposal Facility
Most of the time Contract Cleaners will be dealing with the local
municipality for discharge to their sanitary sewer system connected
to their POTW.
Who do you contact at your local municipality for information and
permits for Environmental Power Washing Procedures in their city?
The problem is that city governments were established before the
Clean Water Act was passed. Because there is no standard structure
for city governments there are several departments that may be in
charge of Power Washing Activities depending on what the
government structure is. If the city government has been updated
then there will be an Environmental Department. Typically
contractors get caught up in the referral system that is a continuous
loop with no end.
In some Phase II Urban Areas the Fire Department is in charge of
Fires Suppression, Emergency Medical Treatment, Storm Water
Issues, plus more. It is not uncommon for the Fire Department to be
a Voluntary Agency.
The following are places to start.
• Health Department. Older city governments combined the
sanitary sewer department and storm sewer departments as part
of the Health Department.
• Storm Water or Surface Water Programs Department.
• Environmental Department.
• Sanitary Sewer Department.
• Public Works Department.
• Water Department.
• Water/Stormwater Utility District.
• Fire Department (In smaller communities and Urban Areas)
• Municipal Departments, which oversees the EPA Stormwater
Economics of Detergent Control and Regulation
Various approaches have been tried by municipalities to control
the effluent from Mobile Power Washing. This has included an
out right ban on power washing to lenient discharge requirement
to the sanitary sewer. A popular measure is to require the capture
of the discharge from mobile power washing without an
approved disposal site, “No Off Property Discharge”.
Often time this approach does not leave the contract cleaner with
an economical disposal site and discharges are directed to the
storm drains on nights and weekends!
(Notice the effect of the economic revenue stream)
Reality of Enforcement
For most areas effluent discharge from mobile power washing
activities is insignificant when compared to the total storm
water discharge. Normally the Enforcement Budget has items
of more importance than power washing activities. Therefore
in most areas enforcement is done on a complaint basis only.
Very few municipalities have an officer assigned to the
enforcement and regulation of Mobile Power Washing
Activities. Unless enforcement is done on a 24/7 basis it
merely diverts this activity to nights and weekends.
If a violation occurs the Regulators may issue citations to:
• The mobile power company
• The mobile power wash operator
• The customer’s manager
• The customer’s company.
Ease on Entry
Entry into the Power Wash Business requires a minimal
investment now as entry level pressure washers can be
purchased at consumer and hardware stores, such as Sears,
Home Depot, and Lowe’s. The least expensive of these units
can be purchased for under $100.00. This means that almost
anyone with a vehicle and the desire can be in the Mobile
Power Wash Business. Often times Power Washing is a part
time business done on nights and weekends when enforcement
is at its lowest.
(Notice the effect of the economic revenue stream)
Cost of Compliance
There is going to be a cost associated with the control of
discharged Power Washing Waste Water. Enacting Regulations
prohibition the discharge of Power Washing Waste Water to the
Storm Drains with enforcement by complaint basis only will have
very little effect on stopping this waste water from entering the
storm drain system (MS4).
Effective enforcement requires a consistent 24/7 enforcement
action. Some municipalities have done enforcement programs for
night and weekends for a 30 day period. This temporarily solves
the program but with the large number of part timers entering the
business the effect soon wears off. Within a short period of time
the industry is back to unregulated power washing. This creates a
yo-yo effect in enforcement and compliance.
As Environmental Chairman of PWNA I have had several instances
where the local Environmental Regulator stated the high level of
compliance that had been established in their area only to go out
that night and drive down the freeways and observe otherwise!
Effect of Environmental Regulations on Cosmetic Mobile
At the present time there is over 10 years of compliance history
to draw from Phase I Municipalities. The industry has proven
that there will be a high level of compliance if the regulations are:
And if the Regulations are not reasonable, rational, and logical
there will be a high level of non-compliance on nights and
The question then becomes “How to achieve the highest level
of compliance with the least amount of expense to the
municipality and urban area?”.
Minimizing the Cost of Compliance
The city that has enacted the best overall regulation with a
highest level of voluntary compliance is Fort Worth, Texas. This
regulation was the result of a “Mobile Power Washing
Environmental Protection and Compliance Conference” held
during a Public Comment Period. The meeting was attended by
about 40 Federal EPA, State, Regional, and Municipal
Environmental Regulators and 100 Contract Cleaner and
Industry Representatives. Detergents detected in the storm
drains has decreased from over 50% of the storm drains to as low
as 5% since the ordinance was enacted January 2, 1996. The
Fort Worth Regulations are now up on the EPA’s Website as an
•· July 17, 1995. A “Mobile Power Washing Environmental
Protection and Compliance Conference” was held in Fort Worth,
Texas as part of a public comment period for a Fort Worth
Cosmetic Cleaning ordinance. The meeting was attended by about
40 Federal EPA, State, Regional, and Municipal Environmental
Regulators and 100 Contract Cleaner and Industry Representatives.
The conference was sponsored by Delco Cleaning Systems of Fort
Worth, and lead by Robert M. Hinderliter of Delco Cleaning
Systems and Brian Camp, Jr., Senior Water Quality Specialists,
Environmental Department, City of Fort Worth. Because of this
conference Fort Worth rewrote their ordinance and it was passed by
City Council November 28, 1995 to become law on January 2,
The best regulation for the elimination of the Yo-yo effect of
enforcement is the BASMAA “Pollution Prevention Voucher”.
This certificate should be required to be kept on file by the
Contract Cleaner and his customer for a period of three years as
adopted by Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.
Also Michigan Department of Environmental Quality allows
discharging to ground for Cosmetic Cleaning up to 1,000 gallons
per month per acre for bioremediation.
Adopting the above regulations will produce the highest level
of voluntary compliance with the minimum cost. This
conclusion is based upon the positive experience of these
regulations over time.
High Lights of the Fort Worth Code: DIVISION 2,
A discharge or flow of cold water used in cosmetic cleaning that is
not contaminated with any soap, detergent, degreaser, solvent,
emulsifier, dispersant or any other cleaning substance may be
discharged to the storm drain as long as the storm drain inlet is
screened to catch debris and the discharge passes through an
oil absorbent pad or boom. No oil sheen may be present in the
discharge after it passes through the pad or boom. Screen the
storm drain inlet with a 20 mesh or finer screen to catch the
The total volume of wastewater generated by all the cosmetic
cleaners operating in Fort Worth on any given day was not
likely to exceed 20,000 gallons; this volume is "insignificant"
when compared to the City's total treatment capacity.
The Cosmetic cleaner was given to access the sanitary sewer
The waste water belonged to the property owner, not the
cosmetic cleaner, so the waste water should be discharged on-
site if possible. The ideal discharge point would be into a sand
or grit trap such as those found in car wash bays. Unfortunately,
few sites contain such facilities so the discharge options revert
to sinks, toilets, floor drains and clean-out stubs. Discharging
through a 400 micron filter to remove the grit and sludge
It is up to the property owner to decide which conveyance to
discharge into as they own the plumbing system located within
their property lines.
Discharges into manholes are strictly forbidden, no matter
where they are located. (city property)
Cosmetic Cleaners that utilize wash water recycling units fit into
"process water" category and must test their effluent at least once
$50.00 Permit Fee for first Wash Rig
The fee for the permit (which goes to the business) is $25.00.
The fee for the registration certificates is $25.00 per wash unit.
Preclean liquid accumulations of oil or grease with absorbent clay
or a similar material prior to washing. The oil soaked clay should
be placed in a plastic bag and disposed to a dumpster.
Discharges to the sanitary sewer must not have a temperature
greater than 150° F, must not have a pH less that 5.0 or greater
Offenses are punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 per day per
Hot water is defined as any water over 110°F.
Discharges to the storm drain using hot water cosmetic
cleaning without any chemicals are approved provided that
permission is granted by the Depart of Environmental Mgt prior
to using the hot water. This exemption was designed for
cosmetic cleaners washing objects such as sidewalks,
headstones, walls and other things that are unlikely to be affected
by the normal pollutants such as oil and grease.
Mobile commercial cosmetic cleaning means "power washing,
steam cleaning, and any other mobile cosmetic cleaning
operation, of vehicles and/or exterior surfaces, engaged in for
Links to the Fort Worth Code:
City of Fort Worth:
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality
BASMAA Pollution Prevention Voucher – On file for 3 years