Photo Information

– SudSafe Car Wash Kits are used to drain potentially harmful runoff from car washes into grassy areas instead rivers around Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. A standard kit has a tub insert that goes into a drain to catch the water, but other improvised variations of the kit can also be assembled to accommodate different drainage styles.

Photo by courtesy photo

Wash cars with a greener outcome

6 Sep 2012 | Lance Cpl. Scott W. Whiting

The Marine Corps Ball is only a few months away, and many units are hosting fundraisers to make the ball more affordable for everyone.

A popular event for many fundraisers is a carwash. While it generates revenue for a host of causes, it also means more soapy water is getting drained into the local rivers.

 “A common misconception is anything going into the drains around here goes into the sanitary sewer and through some sort of treatment device,” said Lauren Acosta, an environmental protection specialist with the Environmental Management Division. “The problem is the water doesn’t go through any treatment. In this area it goes directly to the river. Anything being washed off someone’s car like oils, greases, sediments and heavy metals comes off with the dirt and into the water. In the soap itself, there are phosphates and other chemicals, which harm fish and are bad for water quality.”

A proactive solution to this problem are the new SudSafe Car Wash Kits the Environmental Management Division aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune purchased recently.

“SudSafe Car Wash Kits are used to divert carwash runoff from going into the storm sewer system,” said Acosta. “It’s basically a catch basin insert with a pump and a hose. The drain cover is pulled out and a deep tub is placed inside the drain. When the tub fills up, the hose pumps the water into a grassy areas instead of spilling into the sewer system and eventually the river.”

This solution not only eradicates the issue of dirty water, but it also is beneficial for the ground and puts some of the chemicals in the soap to good use.

“Rather than letting it go straight to the river, pumping it into the grassy areas will cause the ground to soak it up and act as a filter,” said Acosta. “The ground is able to take out a lot of pollution and clean the water. Plants also take some of the nitrogen and different phosphates present in the car wash runoff, and it helps them grow.”

The kits are only available through the Environmental Management Division, but they are free to use whenever a group of people are planning a car wash. Acosta said the only requirement is proper planning if someone wants to use one of their two kits.

“We need to know about a week ahead of time because we have to go look at the site and make sure there is a good area we can pump the water to, so it won’t end up in wetlands or other sensitive areas,” Acosta said. “After we evaluate the site and determine if it can work, we’ll either let them know it’s good or try to find an alternate location.”

Acosta said the division purchased them with the Marines in mind.

“We hated having to tell these Marines who wanted to have fundraisers they couldn’t do it because of the pollutants,” Acosta said. “Our ultimate mission is to help the Marines on this base, so now we can allow them to raise money in a way that isn’t harmful to the environment.”

For more information on the SudSafe Car Wash Kits, or to reserve one for use, contact Lauren Acosta at 451-8795 or