Detergent concentration of only 2 parts per million strip away fishes’ protective coating, resulting in their absorbing double the amount of chemicals they would normally
The National Environment Commission (NEC) is taking a step further to combat car wash pollution by introducing heavy machinery and car wash facilities around the country.
The secretary of the NEC, Ugyen Tshewang, said people wash their motor vehicles in streams and rivers leading to high pollution of the river system. “Washing a car in the river leads to a polluted river. We are initiating a program where people can wash their cars or heavy machineries in designated areas in all the dzongkhags,” said Ugyen Tshewang.
This, he said, will prevent harmful pollution of rivers and streams that result from car washing.
Car wash run-off that includes motor oil, toxic detergents and other chemicals degrades the water quality. It threatens river habitat and the entire food chain, including fish, insects, frogs, and other species that eat them.
He said with increasing number of vehicles in the country the problem of people washing cars in the rivers will also aggravate. “We have made it clear that people are not allowed to wash their cars or any machineries in rivers or streams but there has been least compliance,” he said, adding that there are also penalties for doing so.
“We want to keep our air and water as pristine as possible,” he added.
He said all the dzongkhag authorities concerned have been already notified about the initiative and these agencies will have to identify an area for the facility to come up.
This initiative will be a Public Private Partnership (PPP) model. “We will just initiate and the rest will be carried out by interested individuals,” said secretary Ugyen Tshewang, adding that at present car wash facilities are mostly available in the capital where as in other dzongkhags there aren’t many.
“We will implement it as soon as possible. We are studying it at the moment with help from a local consultancy firm and from the Center for Science and Environment from India,” he said.
Even washing a car in the driveway or parking lot creates a small toxic flow of detergents, surfactants, oils, rust, engine grime, wax and degreasers. This water flows down the driveway into the storm sewer and goes untreated to a nearby streams or river.
Home car washing also uses more water per wash than a commercial car wash does – as much as 440 liters every time. Commercial carwashes use less than half of that.
“The used water at the facility will also be treated and this will flow back to the streams and rivers,” said Ugyen Tsehwang.
There are many impacts of washing cars in the river, streams or lakes. Detergent concentration of only 2 parts per million (PPM) strip away fishes’ protective coating, resulting in their absorbing double the amount of chemicals they would normally.
Detergent concentration as low as 5 ppm will kill fish eggs and significant fish kills occur when detergent concentration are near 15 ppm.
“We have to take care of our pristine rivers and the life system which exists in it,” said Ugyen Tshewang.
The NEC will also initiate a program of tree plantation along the highways and talks are already underway with various government agencies. “We are looking at planting trees along the highways to offset carbon emited by vehicles plying on the road,” he said.