Preventing water pollution with proper vehicle maintenance

  • Published
  • By Ms. Amy Tharp
  • Ms. Amy Tharp
You might be wondering how a car pollutes rivers and streams. After all, you don't drive them in the water.

Try answering these questions: What happens if oil, grease or transmission fluid leaks a little on your driveway? What about tiny bits of tires, brakes and rusty metal that falls off when we drive? Where do you think the tiny exhaust particles from your car wind up? If your answer is "rivers and streams," you are right.

All of these pollutants wash off the car and get carried along in rain. They head down the street into the gutter and into storm drains. Where do the storm drains lead to? You guessed it--rivers and streams.

For Hurlburt Field specifically, it's streams that lead to Santa Rosa Sound, East Bay River, and wetlands to the north of the base. Many of you probably enjoy swimming or fishing in the Sound, so you have an extra reason to do your part in keeping it clean!

How can you and your family help "curb" pollution as you take care of your car? Follow these simple steps to cleaner water:

Recycle oil:
Old motor oil can be reprocessed and used again and again. It should be recycled and never, ever, poured down a storm drain where it winds up in a stream. Did you know that five quarts of oil from a car can create an oil slick the size of two football fields or pollute a million gallons of drinking water? If you change your own oil, contact your local maintenance shop. Most will accept your used oil for recycling or take it to the base auto hobby shop.

Use commercial car washes:
Instead of washing your car at home where the soapy water heads down the storm drain, take your vehicle to a local car wash, where the water runs into a sewer system where it is treated at a sewage treatment plant.
Soap can act like a fertilizer when it gets into bodies of water, causing weed and algae growth. When these organisms decompose, they use up the oxygen needed by fish, thereby disturbing the natural ecosystem.
If your family really wants to wash the car at home, drive it onto the lawn or onto a gravel drive. This allows the soil and ground to filter out most pollutants, reducing harm to the environment.
Note: For the industrial areas of the base, washing your car anywhere other than a car wash facility is prohibited.

Repair leaks:
Keep your eyes open for spots on your driveway or garage floor. If present, it could indicate the engine, transmission or radiator in your car is leaking and needs to be repaired right away.

Drive less:
One of the best ways to prevent pollution of both air and water is to drive less. Can you carpool to work or school with a friend? How about running to the store for just a couple of things? Can you walk or bike? Not only do walking and biking help reduce pollution, they keep you in great shape too.

For questions, please call the Hurlburt Natural Resources Management Element at 850-884-7914.