Summer 2017

oil slickdont dripEvery year, more than 7 million quarts of motor oil drips out of vehicles and onto streets and parking lots and mixes with rain water. This polluted stormwater runoff goes untreated to our lakes, rivers, streams and Puget Sound. Most of this toxic pollution comes from small drips from cars and trucks.

Fixing leaks protects your car (and your wallet). A leak is a sign that something needs to be fixed – and the sooner the cheaper! Besides, aleaky car isn’t a reliable car.

How do you know if you have a leak? You could check your driveway, or a parking spot you use frequently, for an oily spot. Or, put a plastic sheet under your car after a drive to the grocery store. After an hour, pull the sheet out and check for drips – brown drips indicate motor oil, green or yellow drips are coolant, yellow or red drips indicate steering or brake fluid, and clear indicates water condensation (not a problem!). See for more information on what the drips mean, and what part is leaking.

toddler in waterIf you want to learn more about detecting vehicle leaks, attend one of the free car leak workshops offered by Washington State Department of Ecology. Your car will be inspected by a trained mechanic and you can learn the basics of car maintenance. The workshops are being held at four community colleges (the closest one to Edmonds is at Shoreline Community College; there’s also a couple in Everett) to teach car owners how to detect leaks, and how to maintain their vehicles to decrease the frequency of leaks. Go to the Don’t Drip & Drive website ( to register for your workshop!  

So what is “Don’t Drip & Drive”? It’s an award winning program organized by local cities, counties, and non-profit organizations interested in protecting water quality and the health of Puget Sound by reducing the pollution coming from leaking vehicles. It’s funded through grants from the Department of Ecology. At you can find lots of great information on how to detect leaks, what part of the car might be leaking, and finding a mechanic that can fix it. You can also find a list of local mechanics that will check your car for leaks for free!! And if you have a leak, there’s a coupon for up to $50 off your repair at partner auto repair shops.

And since we’re talking about motor oil, we should discuss what to do with used motor oil. As we’ve already mentioned, motor oil and other vehicle fluids are toxic to humans and the environment. Most auto parts stores will accept used motor oil, or you can take it to a one of several Snohomish County facilities that accept used motor oil, oil filters, or other vehicle fluids. Go to for locations and details. Remember, it’s illegal to dump motor oil, or anything other than stormwater, into City of Edmonds storm drains. Storm drains in Edmonds don’t go to the treatment plant, but flow to our local streams, lakes, and Puget Sound.

Adrain dump no wastend what if there’s a spill? Since our stormwater system connects to our local waterways and not the treatment plant, we can’t let the motor oil reach the storm drain. Instead, we need to clean it up. To start, use kitty litter or another absorbent (even soil will work) to soak up the spill. Once all the oil is absorbed, sweep up the oil-soaked absorbent and place it in the trash. To finish the job, use a little liquid dish soap mixed with warm water and scrub the spill area with a stiff-bristled nylon brush to remove the last bit of oil. Use a rag to wipe up the liquid, and throw the rag in the trash (do not wash it down the storm drain!). The same technique can be used to clean up drips from your driveway.

If you have any questions about car leak detection or the Don’t Drip & Drive campaign, contact Mike Cawrse at 425.771.0220 or


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