But it's all natural! Published March 10, 2022 By Earle Folger 628th Civil Engineering Squadron JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. -- The air floods thick with pollen every spring. This is nature’s way of saying; “I’m alive and ready for the new year.” The ensuing blanket of yellow is followed by shouts and gestures resembling a mother’s reaction to finding a can of open paint in the same room with the rapture of children at play. Rain puddles mixed with pollen do resemble a puddle of yellow paint. Another common sound heard may be the noise of a power washer running, or the screams of people being sprayed with cold water while trying to wash the unsightly pollen and other detritus off houses, vehicles, driveways, and white picket fences. This is all a natural response to; “Hey… it’s dirty and needs washing!” It’s all natural! Is there a problem with washing my house? It all depends on how you wash the house. Gasoline is all natural too, but learning to handling gasoline safely is necessary because of certain dangers it presents. Similarly, washing outside structures presents certain hazards to the environment. The volume of pollen is not easy controlled (without killing trees) and where it goes is up to the wind and rain. We can control where the wash water goes when cleaning outside structures. The dirty stuff on houses and cars is all natural. But when we concentrate the “dirty stuff,” it can become harmful to human health and the environment. Sand dunes are wonderful and exciting right up to the point where the wind creates a blinding sand storm. Something that is all nature (i.e. sand) is now dangerous because of the smothering effect of blowing sand. The same thing is true when debris is washed from houses and cars. The accumulated and concentrated “dirty stuff” can become smothering to plants, insects, and aquatic life. Concentrated alcohol impacts human behavior. Concentrated smoke makes breathing difficult. Anybody ever brought your campfire into the tent when it starts to rain? You quickly find out “that was a bad idea!” The next time you’re washing your car, hosing out the barbeque grill, or pouring out the remains of last year’s Thanksgiving dinner, be thoughtful of were the wash water is going. Here is a list of where outside wash water should be directed to. Water with grease/oils: Collect the water, and let the oil/grease solidify on top. Remove the solidified grease and dispose of as solid waste (i.e. garbage).Remove any layer of oil and dispose of at an approved oily waste collection center. Dispose of the remaining water in the sanitary sewer system. Water with soap and detergents: Do not use detergents with phosphate when washing items outside. Direct the runoff away from sensitive vegetation like wetlands or drains that flow into creeks and rivers with aquatic animals. Try to direct the water runoff into vegetative areas that normally don’t have standing water (i.e. flower beds, lawns, wild stands of grasses, etc.). Rinse water when spraying off buildings/vehicle: If not using soap, but simply removing mud and accumulation of dirt, use good judgment about where the water runoff goes. Heavy mud should not be flushed into a drain that may get clogged. Water laden with silt/pollen should be direct into vegetative areas that are normally dry, and away from waters that have aquatic animals.