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Lahainaluna High School students help debut ‘ocean-friendly’ car wash model in Lahaina

By Staff | Nov 29, 2018

Cars were lined up at the 9 a.m. start time for the ocean-friendly car wash. PHOTO BY LIZ FOOTE.

LAHAINA – For the first time ever in Hawaii, an “ocean-friendly” charity car wash was held to lessen the pollutants associated with vehicles and car care that reach storm drains and can harm the environment.

The West Maui Kumuwai campaign, a movement for ocean health, teamed up with students from Lahainaluna High School, who spent their Saturday morning washing upwards of 50 cars at the Old Lahaina Luau’s parking lot in Lahaina.

The car wash was free, but students collected voluntary donations that amounted to nearly $500 to support the school’s Student Council.

Fundraiser car washes are held frequently on Maui, where stormwater rules and regulations are much less stringent than on the continental United States. In these other areas, such as the Chesapeake Bay region, local municipalities have worked with regional organizations to devise a more environmentally sustainable model for charity car washes. This approach consists of using a simple submersible pump system to suck up the wash water and redirect it to a vegetated area, where it will benefit from natural filtration before replenishing groundwater, or to a sink or toilet, which ensures it will be transmitted to a treatment plant instead of a storm drain.

In these regions, “car wash kits” consisting of the necessary materials are available for groups to check out for use during their car washing events.

West Maui Kumuwai Campaign Manager Liz Foote noted that the car wash held in Lahaina was the first time the model has been tested in Hawaii. The event was deemed a success, not just because the pump and redirect system worked perfectly, but because of the enthusiasm on display from the students and the patrons.

According to Foote, “we’ve been wanting to do this for years and are excited it worked so well. Cars were lined up at our 9 a.m. start time, and people really appreciated the fact it was happening. We hope this model can be adopted by other groups, the car-washing venues and even condo and resort properties with car-washing areas.”

This event was coordinated with the support of Lahainaluna student Maritza Miranda, who worked on her senior project with West Maui Kumuwai. Maritza enlisted her classmates to help with the car-washing duties, and shared ocean-friendly messages with her peers as part of her project’s goals.

Maritza, reflecting on her experience, said, “I can’t believe we haven’t done this before! You’d think, living right by the ocean, someone would’ve thought of it sooner! My internship was a long process, but it was worth it in the end when everyone who worked the car wash was having fun and really enjoyed doing something for the community. I’d like to thank everyone who came and supported this process! This wouldn’t have been possible without the help of the Senior Student Council and the Environmental Club, and everyone who came and donated. Much mahalo!”

For those wanting to wash their cars the ocean-friendly way, the best thing to do is take the car to a commercial car wash, as these facilities use less water and are required by law not to discharge to storm drains. For those washing their cars at home, other ocean-friendly methods include washing the car on the lawn, using a nozzle to reduce waste and choosing a nontoxic and biodegradable cleanser such as the one the group used, Basic H by Shaklee.

The ocean-friendly car wash was sponsored by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Aquatic Resources. Ace Hardware donated materials, and Old Lahaina Luau provided the venue, water and power. For more information, e-mail WestMauiKumuwai@gmail.com or call (808) 283-1631. Photos and videos from the event can be found on West Maui Kumuwai?s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/WestMauiKumuwai, and its Twitter and Instagram feeds, @WMKumuwai.