YORK, Pa. (WHTM) — As many as 950 Pennsylvania municipalities could soon join early adopters — including York — in banning Pennsylvanians from washing their cars with soap in their own driveways.

“It was a mandated change by DEP” — the state’s Department of Environmental Protection — “who said that we have to change our ordinance to match their 2022 stormwater model ordinance,” said Lettice Brown, York’s stormwater coordinator.

Brown said many cities, boroughs and non-rural townships — anywhere with “a lot of parking lots, houses, densely populated areas,” — are covered by the change, which the state is requiring by Sept. 30.

To see if your municipality is covered, click here and search for your municipality. (Be sure to select “all” or a region in the “region” field.)

The reason for the mandate?

“The chemicals in the soaps that are used, even the ones that say they’re environmentally friendly” — even Dawn dishwashing soap, Brown said — “still have some kind of surfactant or chemical in it that will harm our creeks and streams.”

She said water that does into stormwater drains, including most water that runs down driveways, goes directly into water bodies like the Codorus Creek. By contrast, water captured by drains in car washes, like drains inside homes, is treated by the city’s sewer system.

That said, Brown said York is “trying to make it as painless as possible” for people accustomed to washing cars in their driveways.

One example: “If you do have grass — a front lawn or back lawn — if you want to bring your car up on the grass, wash your car and then make sure you remove your car after washing it, back onto the street — we’re trying to say, ‘Okay, that’s better than doing it in the street” because soapy water would be absorbed by soil rather than running into storm drains and then into waterways.

More details about the changes in York:

York City Council voted on August 16 to adopt the changes made to the City of York’s Stormwater Ordinance. These changes make things such as washing your car in your driveway, illegal.

The changes were mandated from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The city was obligated to make the changes in order to remain in compliance with the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

The following ordinances were amended:

  • Title Four Article 935 – General Provisions (Bill 343)
  • Title Four Article 936 – Definitions (Bill #44)
  • Title Four Article 937 Stormwater Management Standards (Bill #45)
  • Title Four Article 938 – Stormwater Management (SWM) Site Plan Requirements (Bill #46)
  • Title Four Article 942 – Detection and Elimination of Illicit Discharges to the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) (Bill #47)
  • Title Four Article 943 – Enforcement and Penalties (Bill #48)

Washing your car parked on a city, alley, driveway, or in a garage without floor drains while utilizing soap or solvent is now illegal as of August 16, 2022. Soaps contain harsh chemicals that then enter the storm drains and then go into creeks and streams. To improve the water quality of these bodies of water, and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay, these changes were necessary.