California man could face jail time for washing his car in the driveway
Should washing your car in the driveway be punishable by jail time? As ridiculous as this may sound, a California man could be facing time behind bars for his insistence to wash his car in his driveway, despite warnings from San Mateo County. Vic Trierweiler, who hails from Belmont, was told that he would face a $500 fine or up to six months in jail if he keeps washing his vehicles on his Coronet Boulevard driveway.
Although the warning may seem extreme, the California Regional Water Quality Control Board maintains that the practice is illegal. On April 30 Trierweiler received a letter from the city’s Public Works Department reading, “washing activities can only be performed on vegetated or grassy areas where the wash water can be absorbed into the ground instead of allowing it to enter the storm drain system.” The written warning came shortly after Trierweiler earned a verbal warning from a city and stormwater inspector told him the dangers of “sudsy water” entering storm drain systems.
City code states that it is unlawful for anyone to allow for or produce “waste matter, garbage, sewerage, grass clippings, paper, metal, wood or plastic objects, oil or gasoline, flammable materials or substances prohibited by the Municipal Regional Stormwater Permit."
Noticeably absent from the city’s list is soapy water. That said, the city inspector told Trierweiler that driveway car washing practices were prohibited in an ordnance passed several years ago to protect sewer rate increases. Additionally, the inspector offered Trierweiler a coupon to a local car wash, which he did not accept.
So what is Trierweiler reasoning behind his insistence to wash his car in his driveway? The California man argues that he cannot afford to pay for a carwash on a weekly basis. Trierweiler also claims that he is being environmentally responsible when it comes to car washing. “I have made a conscious effort to use biodegradable soap to minimize the effects on the environment,” Trierweiler said.
Aside from having the support of local citenzry, local government officials have come out behind Trierweiler. Councilwoman Coralin Feierbach told the Daily Journal, “No one should go to jail for washing their cars. I didn’t know it was prevented. It’s not clear. It’s a weird one.”
Belmont’s Public Works Director Afshin Oskoui defended the city’s position by stating that allowing runoff to enter storm drain systems is unlawful, not simply washing a vehicle. Oskoui insists that storm water is directly deposited into creeks and the bay. In turn, car wash residue may make its way into the city’s water system.
Stay tuned as this civil liberty case continues to unfold.