British Columbia

Vancouver woman wants to clean up how people wash their cars

Lydia Lee is petitioning the City of Vancouver to let people know how to legally wash cars, saying soap and greasy residue are harmful to the environment.

Lydia Lee is petitioning the City of Vancouver to let people know how to legally wash their vehicles

Drivers are supposed to take their vehicles to commercial car washes or do it at home on lawns, gravel pads or other permeable surfaces where the runoff doesn't end up in the drain. (Andy Nelson /The Register-Guard via AP)

Lydia Lee has spent nearly four full days this week collecting signatures for her petition. She's not campaigning online, but rather the old fashioned way — stopping people on the street to make her case.

Lee is fed up seeing neighbours regularly clean their cars on the street or in driveways which is illegal in Vancouver because detergent and residues from dirty, greasy cars flow down storm drains and into waterways.

"The soap, or all the chemicals, go down the drain, into our ocean, which is really bad for the environment," said Lee.

Drivers are supposed to take their vehicles to commercial car washes or do it at home on lawns, gravel pads or other permeable surfaces where the runoff doesn't end up in the drain.

But Lee doesn't think people are getting the message, so she's petitioning the city to print educational material on the subject and mail it out with property tax notices this month.

Lydia Lee gets a man to sign her petition, calling on the City of Vancouver to print and mail out educational information about the legal way to wash a vehicle. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

She's concerned the city hasn't been receptive to her message — Lee says she hasn't had calls returned — and that she's running out of time to get her petition finished before tax notices go out.

"I am very, very worried, because all I can do is get this many signatures," she said, adding that she has collected about 120. "I'm all by myself, I can't get together any more signatures."

In nearby municipalities like Surrey, residents are reminded that the contents of storm drains run directly into local streams without being treated. People who can't find a suitable permeable surface to wash on are advised to wash water away from storm water drains to landscaped, grass-covered or gravel areas.

In Burnaby, bylaws similar to Vancouver's are in effect and anyone who sees chemicals washed into storm drains is asked to call the city's Emergency Dispatch.

In Vancouver, people washing cars are also asked to conserve water by using a bucket and a spring-loaded spray valve.

It's a bylaw violation in Vancouver to wash your car on your driveway or on the street where the soapy, dirty runoff flows into storm drains. People are expected to use a permeable surface like a lawn or gravel pad. (GreenMiles/Shutterstock)

Is there more to this story? Email rafferty.baker@cbc.ca

Follow Rafferty Baker on Twitter: @raffertybaker

About the Author

Rafferty Baker is CBC Vancouver's mobile journalist. Follow him @raffertybaker

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