weather icon Clear

Some mobile car washes play dirty

They’re a common sight on corners and in empty parking lots around the Las Vegas Valley : trucks and vans hauling 40-gallon plastic water tanks and equipment and a few employees doing the dirty work.

Mobile car washes can be a useful service to the busy masses, but some residents and competitors are taking aim at pop-up operations that are not playing by the rules.

The operations are to be licensed and to abide by water regulations meant to protect the environment and water sources.

Paradise resident Ralph Linder said it concerns him to see mobile car washes turn up along Tropicana Avenue each weekend.

Linder said he is concerned that many mobile car washes don’t get licensed and infringe on property rights of business owners whose parking lots they use.

“I’d like to see code enforcement out there twisting their tail, saying, ‘If you like to be out there, you need to have permission,’ ” he said.

He also takes issue with unmarked cars and trailers with water and chemicals sloshing into storm drains.

“What is the impact of the unrecycled water ending up with soap and such in Lake Mead through the drain system ?” he said. “I never see them collecting their runoff.”

Clark County Code chapter 24.40 describes the Clark County Water Quality Program and applies to all industries to protect pollutant runoff from going into Lake Mead and the Colorado River.

The county has a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit, which regulates points that discharge pollutants into water sources as authorized by the Clean Water Act. The permits are issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Ebrahim Juma, assistant planning manager for the Clark County Water Reclamation District, said mobile car washes are to contain the flow of their runoff so it doesn’t discharge into storm drains.

Violators face fines of up to $1,000 a day.

“If you see something, call and make a complaint,” Juma said.

Juma said budget woes prevent county inspectors from nabbing violators on weekends.

Mobile business is a seven-day-a-week undertaking, said Michael Werber of Elite Auto Detailing. He has been owner and operator of the car wash, detail and repair business for six years and said avoiding the overhead of a storefront and catering to customers at their homes and businesses makes dollars and sense.

Werber said it’s expensive to license, bond and insure his equipment but worth it for the peace of mind. Werber collects his water waste as per Clark County Code chapter 24.40.

He said he sees many of his competitors not following the practice.

“You drive around and see these guys on the corner, flagging people down and letting their water drain anywhere,” he said. “I don’t know how the city is allowing it.”

Juma said the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit covers Clark County and the cities of Las Vegas, Henderson and North Las Vegas.

Werber said mobile car washes also take the competitive edge.

“They’re taking business, and they’ve ruined business,” he said. “They’re often not using purified water or microfiber towels. They don’t have the customer service. Cars and customers pay the price.”

Dee Ford, manager of Platinum Plus Mobile Detail, said he doesn’t bother with other mobile car wash services.

“I guess they’re trying to make a living,” he said.

To report a water violation, contact the Clark County Water Reclamation District at 668-8674.

Contact Centennial and Paradise View reporter Maggie Lillis at mlillis@viewnews.com or 477-3839.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.