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June 15, 2010
Washing wisely - what you need to know when washing your car this summer
With the warm weather upon us, many Toronto residents are taking the opportunity to add car washing to their list of weekend chores. Unfortunately, the water that comes from washing your car often contains dirt, oil, grease, heavy metals, hazardous chemicals and soaps - all of which enter local streams, rivers and Lake Ontario and can then harm aquatic habitat.

It is important to be aware that there are two types of sewer systems in the City of Toronto. The sanitary system takes the used water from homes and businesses to a wastewater treatment plant for cleaning. The storm sewer system - the square grates on the side of the road - takes rainwater and melted snow from the streets and releases it, untreated, into local streams, rivers and Lake Ontario.

To avoid having dirty water run into the storm sewer system, consider these options for washing your car:
• Use a commercial car wash facility. These facilities are required to follow a set of practices determined by the City, including treating wastewater and discharging it into the sanitary sewer system where it will receive further treatment.
• Find a location where the wastewater won’t flow into the storm sewer. For example, washing cars on a grassy lawn or gravel surface allows the wastewater to be absorbed by the soil. Washing the car on your lawn doubles the water use by giving your lawn a good watering at the same time.
• Dispose of the wastewater into the sanitary sewer. By using a pail, washcloth and only a small amount of water, and then wiping the car dry, the waste water can be contained in the bucket and disposed of into the sanitary sewer through a laundry sink or toilet.

When choosing one of the above car washing options, here are a few tips to stay green:
• Don’t use soap. Instead, use a small amount of environmentally friendly water-based detergent that is phosphate and NPE free. Many other car-care products also contain harmful chemicals which should be avoided.
• Don’t wash your car during drought conditions.
• Re-think the need to wash your car if rain is in the forecast.

The City of Toronto has a Sewers Bylaw that prohibits the discharge of any water other than storm water or melted snow into the storm sewers.

For more information, visit or call 311.

Toronto is Canada's largest city and sixth largest government, and home to a diverse population of about 2.6 million people. It is the economic engine of Canada and one of the greenest and most creative cities in North America. Toronto has won numerous awards for quality, innovation and efficiency in delivering public services. Toronto's government is dedicated to prosperity, opportunity and liveability for all its residents. For information about non-emergency City services and programs, Toronto residents, businesses and visitors can dial 311, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Media contact:
Ellen Leesti, Senior Communications Coordinator, Toronto Water, 416-397-1403,



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