Best Management Practices for Vehicle and Other Equipment Wash Facilities

This guide was published as a guide only and it does not include all the applicable legal requirements. The guide is intended to help owners and operators of vehicle and other equipment wash facilities using 100% closed-loop recycle systems understand applicable Department regulations. The guide also offers recommendations for best management practices (BMPs) that make good business sense and at the same time protect the environment. Business owners are responsible for obtaining complete information about applicable regulations. The Department does not relieve any person from any requirements of federal regulations or Florida law though this guidebook. As this guide is only a guidebook, facilities may find that
some aspects contained in this publication may not be applicable in their case.
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This guide is addressed primarily to owners and operators of vehicle and other equipment wash facilities using 100% closed-loop recycle systems. Owners and operators of other types of non-recycling equipment wash facilities, including mobile wash units or pressure washers, should consult with the local office of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for regulatory requirements.

By design, facilities equipped with 100% closed-loop recycle systems should not discharge wastewater to ground or surface waters of the State. However, because of various conditions, discharges do occur at some facilities. These conditions include improper operating methods, inadequate maintenance, inappropriate storage, handling and disposal of materials, poor storm water management, leaks, runoff to the ground, or accidental discharges. Such discharges can cause significant contamination of the waters of the State. As a result, DEP may require an industrial wastewater permit for facilities equipped with 100% closed-loop recycle systems. If these facilities implement successful Best Management Practices (BMPs) that prevent pollution and contamination of waters of the State, they may be exempt from obtaining such a permit, provided other Departmental requirements are met.

This document contains guidelines for implementing BMPs at facilities operating 100% closed-loop recycle systems, briefly describes different options for managing the wastewater, and lays out basic regulatory requirements for the discharge of the wastewater. This guide is intended to serve as a tool and as a resource. When used as a tool, the owner and operators of vehicle and other equipment wash facilities can better understand applicable Department regulations; when used as a resource, the owner or operator may find and implement recommendations that make good business sense while protecting the environment. Other facilities, such as those utilizing partial recycle systems, may also benefit from implementing some of the BMPs described in this document, as appropriate.

Vehicle washing is the cleaning of privately owned vehicles (cars and trucks), public vehicles (school buses, vans, municipal buses, fire trucks, and utility vehicles), and industrial vehicles (moving vans or trucks, tractors, etc). Other equipment (airplanes, boats, tanks, wheeled tactical vehicles, farm equipment, trailers, construction equipment such as dozers, backhoe loaders, excavators, dump trucks, etc) is also being washed at some facilities. If not properly managed, the wash water can pollute the water supply and/or surrounding water bodies. It can carry sediment and contaminants (for example oil, grease, metal (paint chips), phosphates, detergents, soaps, cleaners, and other chemicals) to surface waters, or it can contaminate ground water by infiltration or by drainage to subsurface wells and septic systems. Once a water supply becomes contaminated, it is very difficult and costly to treat; moreover, the treatment process is not always successful.

The recommended way of managing the large amounts of wastewater resulting from vehicle and other equipment washing, is by recycling it through a system that purifi es the wastewater and pipes it back for reuse. This results in water conservation as well as real savings to the vehicle wash facility in terms of water bills and sewer connection charges.

There are two types of recycling systems: 100% closed-loop recycle and partial recycle.

  1. 100% Closed-Loop Recycle System, also called a Non-Discharging/Closed-Loop Recycle System, is a total recycle system that recycles both wash water and rinse water with no discharge of wastewater to waters of the State.
  2. A Partial Recycle System is a system where wash water is separated from the rinse water. The wash water is recycled, and the excess rinse water may be disposed of to an absorption field system designed and installed in accordance with Department requirements

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