For years, car washes have been a fundraising staple for high school sports teams, marching bands and youth groups.
Just get some kids together with buckets and soap, rent out a parking lot, put up a sign and hope it doesn’t rain.
But in Arlington, Va., you also have to hope the government doesn’t catch you.
Charity car washes and car wash fundraisers are now banned on school property there, after the Department of Environmental Services issued new rules for stormwater and water runoff.
The county pins the blame on the Virginia General Assembly, which approved more stringent water regulations last year.
“There is an underlying reason why most types of car washing are not allowed under state and federal stormwater regulations,” DES spokeswoman Shannon Whalen told the Arlington News.
Those important reasons: washing cars can cause chlorinated water and soap to wash into local streams, which flow into the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay.
But Whalen found a silver lining in the new regulations.
“There are educational and environmental benefits that come with finding new and environmentally friendly ways to raise money for extracurricular activities,” she said.
One of those educational benefits: high school kids get a first-hand civics lesson in how government shuts down just about any activity it doesn’t like. Try finding that lesson in any textbook.
Coaches told the Arlington News they’re concerned about how the ban will affect sports and other activities. After all, the market can only handle so many bake sales.
The new stormwater regulations in Virginia have consequences beyond Arlington.
By the letter of the law approved in July 2013, all car washes that aren’t for personal use require a permit from the state government, even charity car washes held on private property.