Bay Area resident Dave Olsen wasn’t aware of the potential harm of washing your own vehicle – right up until he purchased Pinky’s Klassy Kar Wash in Antioch. “I always thought a car wash was superfluous, a luxury item,” said Olsen, “but it’s so much better for the environment. It uses less water, and all that stuff that runs off your car – brake dust and grease – stays out of the storm drains so that it doesn’t go to the Delta or into Lake Alhambra.”
Olsen keeps a plastic container filled with the sludge that was removed from the gutters on the wash line at Pinky’s when he bought the business in May. The contents of the container are mostly silt that has sunk to the bottom, but there’s still an oil-infested liquid that sloshes around at the surface. When he carefully unscrews the lid, the stench of the hazardous contents fills the air with the smell of fertilizer and garbage.
“I always thought I might be wasting a little water when I washed my car at home,” said Olsen, “but I had no realization of what I was rinsing off my car. I had never given it a thought, and most people don’t think about it. The sludge is tough on the Delta. It’s really nasty stuff.”
The Environmental Protection Agency encourages the public to conserve water and keep pollutants such as oil, antifreeze, brake fluid, paints, and other chemicals out of the waterways by using commercial car washes. However, states the EPA Web site, if you insist on washing your car at home, it’s best to do it on the lawn so that the water is absorbed into the ground rather than runs off into storm drains.
Olsen said you can buy special mats that prevent rinse water from running into storm drains – but they’re expensive. Instead, Olsen has made Pinky’s Klassy Kar Wash one of the most environmentally safe establishments in East County. In the past four months, he has purchased a new water-filtration system plus water-treatment equipment that have turned the 18-year-old business into an environmentally-conscious facility.
The wash line that vehicles pass through was redone, and the new grates the vehicles pass over – originally bright green – are now stained black from just a few months of washes, evidence of Olsen’s hard work.
Olsen is environmentally conscious by nature. As he walks around, he picks up trash and tosses it into the proper recycling receptacle. As he walks over the grates on the wash line, he’s still amazed by the pollutants that have collected in the ditch below. The ditch is cleaned out at least once a week, and Olsen estimates that 5 to 10 gallons of sludge is extracted on a weekly basis.
Pinky’s uses milder soaps, which help preserve the vehicle’s paint job and are less harsh on the environment than soaps used at a gas station car wash. Pinky’s also uses a water softening system to prevent water marks from marring the vehicle’s finish. Even the drains on the property have been redone so that all water filters back to be recycled onsite instead of drains to the Delta.
Olsen is also reaching out to educate the community about the environmental impact of car washing. Car washes have long been a popular fundraising tool of community groups, schools and churches, so Olsen has been working with such organizations to help them raise money – but give the contributors an environmentally safe car wash for their donations.
Olsen said that it might not be long before taking your vehicle to a car wash will be mandatory. Washington state is currently looking into legislation that would make washing your car at home illegal. In 2003, Australia made it illegal for citizens to wash their cars at home, and has put a special enforcement group on patrol to make sure people are obeying the law.
Olsen is trying to set an example with Pinky’s Klassy Kar Wash, and is currently waiting for certification from the Bay Area Green Business Program, which would designate it as a business that holds high environmental standards. The only car wash currently certified in Contra Costa County is Brentwood Hand Car Wash.
Car washes begin at $8.95 for an exterior wash. Full service, which includes wash, dry, interior vacuum, window cleaning, dashboard and center console cleaning, costs $15.95. All vehicles are hand washed.
Pinky’s will wash everything from cars, trucks and SUVs to motor homes, boats and motorcycles. If it can fit on the lot, it can be hand washed at Pinky’s. Most car washes don’t have room for big jobs, but Pinky’s has room to do tow trucks, construction vehicles and even cranes.
Pinky’s Klassy Kar Wash, located at 300 E. 18th St. in Antioch, is open from 8 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, call 925-779-9274.