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High school cheerleader car wash violates environmental laws

It’s hard to wave your spirit fingers when the city shuts down the cheerleading squad’s fundraising car wash to protect the environment.

This is what happened to Lincoln High School cheerleaders  trying to raise money to attend a national competition in April. The San Jose Mercury reports that local environmental officials warned the high school cheerleaders that their car wash violated the city’s water discharge laws.

“We had a visit from the city of San Jose Environmental Services Department who said that the car washes at Hoover [Middle School] are in violation of water discharge laws, therefore we had to cancel this and all future car washes,” said an email that was sent out to neighborhood email lists on Oct. 18.

“Anything that is not storm water or rain water is considered a pollutant,” said Jennie Loft, acting communications manager for San Jose’s Environmental Services Department. “If it goes into a storm drain, that pollutant will harm wildlife and habitats in the creeks. Water goes directly from the storm drains into our creeks.”

The city intervened in response to two complaints received about the car wash events Lincoln High Schoolers had been holding at Hoover Middle School. City officials reached out to school and district staff to give them information on how to prevent pollutants from getting into storm drains.

The city also gave some tips on how they can have legally compliant cars washes.

The Mercury reports: “Conduct car washing over gravel, grassy area, or other earthen areas if possible… Ensure that wash water (soapy or not) does not run into a street, gutter, or storm drain… Wash water from paved areas should be collected and diverted either into the sanitary sewer system or a landscaped area… Use different methods to protect the storm drain system… Ensure no soap stains remain on the ground.”

These byzantine regulations don’t just apply to high school sports teams struggling to raise money, but also to individuals who want to give their car a rinse.

“What most people should do if washing their cars at home is park it on the lawn so the water is diverted into landscape,” Loft said. “Or go to a designated neighborhood car wash, so it doesn’t go into the storm drain.”

According to the Mercury, the Lincoln High School cheerleaders still need funds to get to their competition and are welcoming contributions by check to “Lincoln Cheer 2013-2014, Lincoln High School, 555 Dana Ave., San Jose, 95126, attention Mrs. Phillips.”

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