An auto repair shop may generate process wastewater from equipment cleaning, car washing, paint spray booths or other sources. Under Ohio EPA’s regulations, options for handling process wastewater include direct and indirect discharges.
Only sanitary waste and wastewater (from bathrooms and hand washing sinks) can go to an on-site sewage treatment or disposal system. Process wastewater containing chemicals, oils or other contaminants CANNOT go into an on-site system.
Ohio EPA’s regulations prohibit the discharge of process wastewater into injection wells without a permit. Examples of injection wells include dry wells, drain fields and cesspools. Septic tanks, mound systems or leach fields are defined as injection well systems.
Any discharge of industrial wastewater to “waters of the state” requires a discharge permit from Ohio EPA’s Division of Surface Water. This permit is called a national Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. Examples of waters of the state include streams, rivers, lakes, ponds, marshes, watercourses, waterways, wells and springs. Wastewater discharges entering a conveyance system (like a ditch or storm sewer) that leads to a waterway may also require an NPDES permit.
You may also be required to treat wastewater to remove harmful contaminants (for example, metals, chemicals, oils or grease) before it is discharged. If treatment is required, a separate permit is needed to construct wastewater treatment units, called a permit-to-install (or PTI). The PTI application is reviewed by Ohio EPA’s Division of Surface Water.
Often, the local publicly owned treatment works (POTWs) are responsible for regulating the companies that discharge wastewater to them. A large POTW may be able to handle the wastewater from your business. However, even large wastewater treatment plants are not generally designed to handle industrial wastes like chemicals, metals, oils, etc. They are designed to handle sewage related wastes and wastewater. Because of this, the treatment plant may require you to conduct “pretreatment” (for example, removal of metals, oil or grease, etc.) before discharging your wastewater to them.
If you want to discharge industrial wastewater to a local POTW, discuss it with the treatment plant directly. Permission to discharge to the POTW and/or obtaining a permit may be necessary. If you must construct wastewater treatment or storage units, a PTI from Ohio EPA is required.
Contact the Division of Surface Water at your local Ohio EPA district office for more information on the wastewater discharge and permitting requirements.
Many small businesses have floor drains. A common floor drain system can include a concrete trench that runs down the center of a shop floor. The trench is designed to capture water, cleaners, oil, dirt or other materials. Some shops have small rectangular or round floor drains connected to underground piping.
Some floor drains are necessary for day-to-day operations. Others are used for emergency purposes only. And some floor drains don’t seem to have any apparent use. Do you know where the floor drains in your business go? Are you discharging wastewater or other fluids into your floor drains?
It is very important that you know where all your floor drains lead, and are aware of Ohio EPA’s regulations that apply to your dis-charge activities. If you do not know where your drains lead, or if you are using floor drains improperly, you could be contaminating nearby surface waters or drinking waters.
Some floor drains lead into a sanitary sewer, where wastewater goes directly to a POTW. Other floor drains lead to an on-site sewage treatment system like a septic tank. Sometimes floor drains lead directly to an underground holding tank or discharge to a waterway or to the ground outside. Ohio EPA’s water pollution control regulations apply to all of these activities.
Any company that wants to discharge industrial wastewater to waters of the state needs to obtain a NPDES permit from Ohio EPA. If your floor drains lead to any water of the state, you must have a discharge permit for this activity.
Companies that discharge industrial wastewater directly to a POTW are also regulated. Often, the POTW regulates the dis-charge activities. If you are discharging to a POTW, you need to contact the plant to discuss your activities. You may be required to obtain a permit for the discharge. In addition, you may be required to treat the wastewater before discharging (for example, oil/water separation, removing solids, chemicals, etc.).
If you have a floor drain which leads to an injection well, you are subject to Ohio’s underground injection control (UIC) regulations. The UIC regulations are in place to protect underground drinking water sources from becoming contaminated. If you are discharging industrial wastewater to a floor drain that leads to a septic system or other injection well system, you could be in violation of Ohio’s water pollution control laws. Examples of injection wells include dry wells, drain fields and cesspools. In addition, a floor drain that is tied to a septic tank, mound system or leach field is defined as an injection well system.
Under Ohio EPA’s water pollution control regulations, a company cannot discharge industrial wastewater into an injection well. This activity is strictly prohibited unless a company has obtained a permit to drill and a permit to operate (UIC permit) from Ohio EPA’s Division of Drinking and Ground Waters. This includes discharging industrial wastewater to an on-site sewage treatment system (for example, a septic tank or leach field). Not only would this activity without a permit be a violation, the discharged materials (chemicals, solids, oil, etc.) could also damage your on-site system.
The use of some disposal wells has been completely banned, including the use of motor vehicle waste disposal wells.
- Check all your floor drains and make sure you know where they drain.
- If you are using floor drains to discharge industrial wastewater into a septic system or onto the ground, you must stop these discharge activities immediately. You must find another way to manage your wastewater.
- If you are using floor drains to discharge industrial wastewater to a water of the state, and you do not have an NPDES permit, you must stop these discharge activities immediately. You must either obtain a permit or find another way to manage wastewater.
- If you are using floor drains to discharge wastewater to a local wastewater treatment plant, make sure the treatment plant knows about this activity. You may be required to conduct treatment on the wastewater before discharging it. You may also need to get a permit for the discharge.
- Do not put other fluids like oil, solvents, paints or chemicals into a floor drain. This could contaminate your property and lead to large fines and cleanup costs.
- Consider installing an emergency shut-off on the drain pipes to prevent accidental spills from entering the sewer.
- If you have floor drains at your company that you are not using, think about having them capped or plugged. Good housekeeping and planning can help avoid costly problems later.
If you have any questions about floor drains and Ohio’s water pollution control requirements, contact your local Ohio EPA district office, Division of Surface Water (DSW) for assistance.
Contact Ohio EPA’s Division of Drinking and Ground Water, UIC Program at (614) 644-2752 for more information about injection wells.
Any business generating wastes must evaluate them to determine if they are hazardous wastes under Ohio’s EPA’s regulations. There are specific regulations on how hazardous waste needs to be handled at your shop. There are also recordkeeping requirements.
Common wastes generated by auto body and auto service shops include:
- Spent solvents
- Waste paints and thinners
- Still residues/bottoms (sludge)
- Solvent contaminated shop rags
- Paint booth filters
- Discarded chemicals
- Used oil and filters
- Used antifreeze
- Lead acid batteries
- Scrap tires
- Fluorescent bulbs (lamps)
Some of these may be hazardous wastes mainly because they are ignitable, corrosive, or contain high enough concentrations of heavy metals such as lead, cadmium or chromium. All hazardous wastes must be sent off site to a permitted hazardous waste disposal facility and cannot be thrown in the dumpster.
See the Environmental Compliance Guide for Auto Repair Shops for more detailed information on these wastes and proper disposal requirements.
The best way to “Go Green” and reduce pollution is to prevent it in the first place. Pollution prevention can range from low-cost improvements to changes in equipment and operating practices. These changes can also reduce energy and utility costs. Below are some examples of the many pollution prevention options for auto body and auto service shops.
- Keep ALL solvent containers closed to limit evaporation
- Avoid use of coatings that contain toxic metals (chromium, lead, cadmium, nickel, and manganese) by asking suppliers for alternative formulations
- Use Paintless dent repair techniques
- Avoid use of methylene-chloride based paint strippers
- Use an automatic enclosed gun washer
- Use water-based or low-solvent coatings (primers, basecoats and painting)
- Use low-VOC solvents or thinners
- Employ a two-stage solvent cleaning procedure: Wash first with used solvent, then wash with clean solvent. When first wash solvent no longer cleans, replace with second wash solvent, replace second wash solvent with fresh solvent, recycle first wash waste solvent.
- Recycle solvents with on-site distillation unit or off-site recovery service
- Have an inventory system (first-in, first-out) in place to prevent products from going out of date
- Use computerized paint mixing system to minimize mistakes/over-mixing
- Use non-solvent based putty/fillers
- Reusable aerosol or pump spray containers
- Use a disposable paint cup system to minimize unused paint and emissions
- Use a ventilated sander or self-contained media plaster to minimize emissions from preparing parts
- Employ wet sanding techniques
- Use Roll-on Primer
- Turn on paint booth only when necessary
- Keep booth lights clean
- Change booth filters regularly to ensure good airflow (which reduces draw on HVAC motors)
- Select variable speed drives and motors for paint booth fans
- Use heated air recirculation
- Purchase new or replacement energy efficient equipment (motors, fans, lighting, spray guns)
- Install timers/motion sensors on booth lighting to reduce energy use
- Install specialized controls (timers, motion sensors) that turn off or throttle back lights, heat, or equipment when areas are not occupied and/or in use
- Install programmable thermostat for heating/cooling
- Install efficient fluorescent lights (T-8 or better)
- Encourage employees to turn off lights with reminder signs
- Clean light fixture reflectors to increase available light
- Reduce lighting intensity where acceptable
- Take advantage of day-lighting if possible
- Complete an energy audit/aware of monthly electricity/fuel use
- Insulate building, windows and hot/cold ducts or pipes
- Use electric tools like shop-vacs or blow dryers instead of the compressed air system
- Purchase energy efficient office products/machines (computers, copiers, etc.)
- Regularly check compressed air system for leaks and repair all leaks found
- Regularly check air compressor to ensure the pressure setting isn’t higher than it needs to be
- Do a quick leak check: Walk along compressor pipes/hoses right after turning off the compressor, and listen for hissing. Keep a record of whether the compressor cycles on and off frequently when not in use. A ¼-inch leak can cost you $2,800 per year.
- Consider buying an ultrasonic leak detector. Many are inexpensive and can save about $500/year for each leak repaired.
- Think about whether the air compressor is properly sized for your foreseeable future needs. Every 2 PSI reduced can save you 1% in electricity usage and cost.
- Consider individual turbines for HVLP or small electric tools for specific purposes like buffing or sanding. It may be preferable for certain types of high-CFM pneumatic equipment.
If you have gasoline dispensing operation on site, please see our Gasoline Dispensing page for more information.
U.S. EPA regulates how freon is handled from motor vehicle air conditioners. The rules also set standards for freon recovery and disposal. The Clean Air Act prohibits venting freon into the atmosphere.
Technicians who recover freon from motor vehicles must be trained and certified by a U.S. EPA-approved organization. Training must include instruction on the proper use of equipment, regulatory requirements, importance of refrigerant recovery and the effects of ozone depletion. To be certified, technicians must pass a test demonstrating their knowledge in these areas. A list of approved testing programs is available from the U.S. EPA ozone hotline and Web site.
Technicians who service motor vehicles must use U.S. EPA-approved equipment for refrigerant recovery and recycling. Recover/recycle equipment cleans the refrigerant so that contaminants like oil, air and moisture reach acceptably low levels. A list of approved recovery and recycling equipment is available from U.S. EPA’s ozone hotline and Web site. Service shops performing recovery/recycle operations must certify to U.S. EPA that they own approved equipment.
Disposal and Recordkeeping
Freon recovered from vehicles must either be sent off-site to a reclamation facility or recycled on site. For any recycling done on site, there are specific procedures in the regulations that you must follow. For refrigerants sent to a reclamation facility, you must keep records, including the name and address of the reclaimer.
U.S. EPA’s Ozone Protection Program Hotline: 800-296-1996
If you need help financing equipment that reduces air pollution, such as buying more efficient spray painting equipment or filtration units, contact:
Ohio Air Quality Development Authority’s Clean Air Resource Center (800) 225-5051 or (614) 224-3383www.ohioairquality.org
The Clean Air Resource Center (CARC) is an independent, non-regulatory state agency. CARC is not part of the Ohio EPA. CARC does not enforce air quality regulations. Instead, CARC helps businesses meet EPA air regulations while also reducing costs and gaining tax exemptions.
CARC provides loans to help businesses finance air pollution control or prevention projects, for example, new dry cleaning machines with cleaner emissions. In addition to loans, they also provide small business grants to cover the closing costs of financing pollution control projects.
Ohio EPA's tool for frequently asked questions. Search key word "auto body".
List of Ohio EPA publications relevant to auto bodyshops.
|CCAR || Web site for the Coordinating Committee for Automotive Repair (CCAR) Green Link. Has useful tools for EPA and OSHA compliance, virtual shop guides, etc. |