Hickory Hills resident says power washing could pollute water system

  • Written by Kelly White

  A Hickory Hills resident made an unusual claim that power washing vehicles could be harmful to the city’s water.
  And he was backed up by at least one city council member last Thursday.
  Gil Marek of South 79th Avenue addressed the Hickory Hills City Council on what he said is a dangerous pollution matter taking place within his own neighborhood.
  Marek said his neighbor, living directly across the street from Marek’s residence, is constantly fixing up old trucks, cars and camper trailers and he is concerned about the water being used to pressure wash these vehicles going into the Hickory Hills storm sewer system.
  “Now, I don’t want to be a snitch, but some of the cars and trucks they are repairing are over 60 years old, and I am worried about all of the oil, grease and dust going into the drain system,” he said.
  Councilman Tom McAvoy publicly agreed with Marek’s claim and said that he had a similar problem in his ward years ago. McAvoy said that the vehicles should not be parked on or worked on at a place of residence.
  Marek said he contacted the Hickory Hills Police Department upon the neighbor power washing a truck at 11 p.m. on a Sunday night five weeks ago.
  “The police came to my house and told me there was nothing they could do about the situation,” Marek said. “I would of felt more reassured if they would have taken the time to go over to my neighbor’s house and at least confront them on the power washing issue but they did not.”
  The Clean Water Act prohibits a point source discharge of pollutants into waters of the United States without a permit. Since many pressure washer operators are mobile, it is not realistic to pre-determine discharge locations and obtain permits for each location. Additionally, most permitted process water discharges require treatment and analysis of the discharge, which may not be practical for many pressure washers.
  The most common method of compliance with the CWA is to prevent process wastewater discharges to waters of the United States. If a discharge does not reach waters of the United States, then there are no requirements under the CWA. Examples of compliance without a discharge are vacuuming up the process wastewater and allowing it to evaporate. An additional method of compliance is to discharge the water to permitted sanitary sewer systems. CWA officials say the most common form of non-compliance is to discharge the process water into a storm sewer system or into a city street that drains to a storm water inlet.
  “When they are rebuilding vehicles and using a power washer and allowing it to empty into the storm sewer system, this becomes a huge pollution matter and there are EPA regulations being ignored,” Marek said.
  Washing vehicles is an example of a process water discharge of pollutants requiring a permit if it reaches waters of the United States. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends that companies or individuals take their vehicles to car washes.
  Marek told the council he has no conflicts with his neighbor, other than the water pollution taking place. He feels using a home for reconstructing vehicles is not the proper place for that type of activity.
  “Sometimes, there will be power washing going on close to midnight, even if it is the weekend, that is still way too late and too much noise, aside from the pollution,” Marek said, “Not to mention, there are tools all over the driveway and front yard. It is just a dangerous situation and that type of work should not be going on at a place of residence.”