Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland
This guidance is relevant to you if you clean vehicles. This includes using wheel washes to clean the wheels and undercarriage of vehicles. It is also relevant to you if someone else visits your site to clean vehicles, as it is your responsibility to ensure they do not cause pollution.
If you wash your vehicles at a commercial vehicle wash such as a car wash, this guidance does not apply to you.
You can download GPP 13 which has information on the requirements for vehicle washing sites
Surface run-off from washing areas can contain high levels of pollutants such as:
You must not allow run-off to enter surface water drains, surface waters or ground waters. This will cause pollution and you could be prosecuted.
You should only wash vehicles in defined areas where the wash water and any rainfall run-off can be contained.
If possible, direct the surface run-off from your vehicle washing area to an on-site treatment system. You may be able to reuse the water. This will reduce your water use and your impact on the environment. You can also discharge surface run-off directly to a foul sewer or combined sewer. Contact your water and sewerage company or authority to find out if you need authorisation before you discharge run-off to a sewer. You must comply with any conditions of your authorisation.
Alternatively, you can collect your run-off in a sealed unit and send it to an authorised disposal site. Check that anyone who takes your waste away from your site is a registered waste carrier.
You can use sustainable drainage systems (SUDS) to drain run-off from washing areas. SUDS slow and hold back run-off from a site, so that pollutants can be broken down naturally. In Scotland you must use SUDS to drain run-off from all new built-up areas, such as yards.
See our guidance on sustainable drainage systems for more information.
If you use (abstract) water from surface water or ground waters for cleaning vehicles, you may need an authorisation or licence from your environmental regulator.
Remove oil, grease, petrol and diesel from wash water by passing it slowly through an appropriately sized oil separator. An oil separator will not work effectively if:
Ensure that any discharge containing detergent cannot run to the oil separator, as this will stop it working.
If you use detergents, use a recycling system with no discharge or ensure that any run-off containing detergents is collected in a sealed unit. Contact your local water and sewerage company or authority for guidance on how to dispose of any of these materials to the foul sewer.
Store all cleaning chemicals safely and in an area where you can contain spills. This should be within a secondary containment system (SCS) such as:
See our guidance on chemical storage for more information.
Train all staff to follow your vehicle cleaning procedures. Display details of the procedures in the work area so staff can check them easily.
Vehicle cleaning (including wheel washing)
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