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Pollution worries sending car washes down the drain

POULSBO — Washing cars used to be an obligatory part of raising money for many sports teams or charities. Not anymore.

Some fundraising groups are hanging up their hoses and sponges because of warnings from the City of Poulsbo about protecting streams from pollution.

The North Kitsap High School boys and girls swim teams were scheduled to have three car washes this summer, beginning Saturday, to raise money for new swim suits and warmups. Those car washes were canceled earlier this week because of concerns that the business hosting them — D&J Market in Poulsbo — would be fined for violating clean water rules.

“I didn’t want to cause any problems,” said Joanne Aban, a parent who organizes fundraisers for the teams.

Poulsbo Public Works Director Barry Loveless said the city is not increasing its enforcement of clean water regulations, but in the past several months it has stepped up its campaign to prevent pollution.

“We don’t have an enforcement group that runs around on weekends trying to find violations,” Loveless said. “The idea is to inform people ahead of time, and hopefully they would comply. It’s better to do it by public information rather than by enforcement.”

Loveless added that regarding car washes, the city acts only on complaints it receives. Complaints are infrequent, he said, but the fine for violating the city’s clean water laws is $1,000.

The city requires car wash runoff to drain into sewers or soak into the ground. Runoff at D&J drains into storm drains. Business owners can purchase equipment to pump dirty water out of storm basins and into sewers, but a kit with such equipment costs about $400, Loveless said.

“I cannot afford it, that’s why I have to cancel (the car washes),” D&J owner Daniel Han said of the pump equipment.

Loveless said the city has considered buying its own pump kit and renting it out, but is reluctant to do so because of the expense. Even without access to a pump, there are other options for fundraising groups and businesses hosting car washes, Loveless said.

“If places have a lawn ... then the water can soak in,” he said. “As long as the water soaks into the ground, it’s OK.”

Aban said she does not expect to find a new place to hold car washes at this point in the summer. She reserved the swim teams’ spots at D&J in April. The market, located next to Central Market at the corner of Forest Rock Lane and Little Valley Road, is a popular spot for car washes, especially during the summer.

“On Saturdays and Sundays it’s mostly booked up,” Han said.

Han has canceled a total of 16 car washes scheduled for the remainder of the summer, suspending the activity indefinitely, he said.

Han does not believe canceling the car washes will have an effect on his business. He said the events tend to bring in few additional customers, and he hosted them as a means of helping fundraising groups, not as a way to draw sales.

“I just provide the space and pay for the water bill,” Han said. “It’s not for profit.”

Aban said in the past the swim teams have raised as much as $1,000 at a single car wash. The teams earned enough money at a car wash last month to buy a team banner, but would still like to raise money for swimsuits, which can cost more than $75 apiece, Aban said.

Aban added that she would like to see the swimmers earn the money they need, rather than asking for handouts. They are still looking for ideas of how to do so.

“As far as fundraising, we are stumped,” Aban said.

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