By Greenville County Soil & Water Conservation District
Images of dead birds, arctic seals, and dolphins due to oil spills are stark — but even starker is the realization that Americans drip more oil from leaky cars, machinery, and boats every year than the Exxon Valdez spill off the coast of Alaska in 1989. According to the Smithsonian Institute, some 363 million gallons of oil make it into storm drains and waterways each year, polluting drinking water and killing aquatic plants and animals.
When it rains, stormwater picks up and carries auto fluids from parking lots, driveways, and roads to the closest storm drain. Storm drains then empty — without being treated — to the nearest river, lake or stream. While this issue is largely due to accidental leaks, there is also an issue with illegal dumping directly down storm drains.
Given that it takes only one pint of oil to cause an oil slick over an acre of water, this type of pollution is a serious concern. Most cars hold at least enough motor oil to produce an eight-acre oil slick, meaning it would take the oil of less than five cars to cover Pinnacle Lake at Table Rock State Park.
What can at-home oil changers do for a pollution-free experience? Follow these tips:
- Use drip pans and drop cloths to catch any stray drops or spills.
- Use kitty litter to clean up spills. Simply pour it over the spill, let it clump, sweep it up, and throw it away.
- Never store used oil in a container that once held chemicals, food, or beverages. Keep used oil separate from other materials, including other used automotive fluids.
- Take used motor oil to a service station or other location that collects used motor oil for recycling. If all of the oil from American do-it-yourself oil changers was recycled, it would be enough motor oil for more than 50 million cars per year. Not sure where your nearest drop-off location is? Use this map to find out.
- Wash your car at home, too? Wash it on gravel or grass to reduce runoff and filter out pollutants.
For more tips on how to protect Greenville’s natural resources, visit greenvillesoilandwater.com.