Don’t drip & drive. Fix that leak! Every year, 7 million quarts of oil and other auto fluids drip out of vehicles, potentially contaminating water and harming marine life. In search of a way to address the issue, the Department of Ecology and Seattle Public Utilities teamed up with community colleges and high schools to offer free workshops to help you not “drip and drive." The workshops are drawing eager participants.
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You wouldn’t think the underbelly of a Honda Accord or any car would draw a crowd. But then you probably haven’t been to a free auto leaks workshop offered by the Department of Ecology and Seattle Public Utilities. This is serious fun from the sound of it. “It’s shiny all over. She got her a new money piece. Oh my God, what is this.” Owners of new cars and old cars from all walks of life check on their car’s vital fluids, engine oil, transmission fluid, coolant and brake fluid, get tips on repairing leaks and learn about the impact on Puget Sound waters.
“Now we’re starting to see some uglies," said Jessie Ruiz, an auto mechanic and instructor at South Seattle Community College, as he guided the faithful, or those faithfully bound to their cars in a transit-challenged region, on what to look for. "Oil leak. I just call them uglies. Looks like your oil filter is leaking up there, the housing. Also, see where the filter goes into the adapter? It’s leaking there too.”
The free workshops with the catchy tags — "Don’t Drip & Drive," "Puget Sound Starts Here," "Fix That Leak!" — are part of a regional effort to get a handle on the cumulative “drips” from vehicles poisoning Puget Sound. Stef Frenzl with Snohomish County’s Surface Water Management Division helped jump start the campaign with a grant from the Department of Ecology. He calls it a “top-tier effort” to prioritize a huge issue the region needs to solve.
Jurisdictions throughout the Puget Sound region, 81 in total, are collaborating on how best to implement storm water permit requirements and educate the public on the extent of the pollution problem. A survey done by King County’s environmental behavior index found 67 percent of people would fix their car leaks if they knew they had them. “Granted, that’s what people say,” Frenzl said. “But it was good enough for us to say, well, this is a good first start. Now how do we provide an outlet for them to do that that’s a little more enticing than the status quo?”
Seven million quarts of oil drip onto Puget Sound roads every year. Not all make it to waterways, but a fair portion end up where we swim, whales live and shellfish try to grow. What do 7 million quarts of oil look like? Picture hundreds of thousands of quarts of oil lined up side by side starting from I-5 in Seattle all the way to 50 miles south of the California/Oregon border.
“Even a small portion of that could have an understandably large impact on the health of Puget Sound, given that this stuff is a toxic compound,” Frenzl said.
But what draws a crowd to a free auto leaks workshop, says Department of Ecology point person Justice Asohmbon, are pocket book issues. People come to learn how to identify car leaks and get a handle on the basics of an engine from a trustworthy source.
“Some come because they feel like they don’t trust their mechanics so they want an independent evaluation of their cars that’s unbiased. Others come because they want to protect the environment. Others because they just want to learn how to maintain their vehicles.”
To bring attention to the campaign, Ecology is running Comcast TV ads and printing brochures in Spanish, Chinese and Vietnamese, among other outreach efforts.
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