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Nanny of the Week: Virginia hoses down car wash fundraisers

By   /   May 23, 2014  /   No Comments

Part 6 of 13 in the series Nanny State of the Week

By Eric Boehm | Watchdog.org

MINNEAPOLIS — For years, car washes have been a fundraising staple for high school sports teams, marching bands and youth groups.

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SHUT IT DOWN: You can’t have fundraising car washes in Arlington, Va., anymore. In fact, you can’t have any car washes on private property without a permit from the state.

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 there, after the city’s 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.

Yes, indeed. 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.

For their concern about the environment, Virginia’s lawmakers and Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services win our Nanny of the Week award this week.

Their prize is a lifetime of dirty cars with “Wash me — even if the government doesn’t allow it” scrawled across the back windows.

Boehm can be reached at EBoehm@Watchdog.org and follow @WatchdogOrg and @EricBoehm87 on Twitter for more.

Part of 13 in the series Nanny State of the Week

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Eric is a reporter for Watchdog.org and former bureau chief for Pennsylvania Independent. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he enjoys great weather and low taxes while writing about state governments, pensions, labor issues and economic/civil liberty. Previously, he worked for more than three years in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, covering Pennsylvania state politics and occasionally sneaking across the border to Delaware to buy six-packs of beer. He has also lived (in order of desirability) in Brussels, Belgium, Pennsburg, Pa., Fairfield, Conn., and Rochester, N.Y. His work has appeared in Reason Magazine, National Review Online, The Freeman Magazine, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Washington Examiner and elsewhere. He received a bachelor's degree from Fairfield University in 2009, but he refuses to hang on his wall until his student loans are fully paid off sometime in the mid-2020s. When he steps away from the computer, he enjoys drinking craft beers in classy bars, cheering for an eclectic mix of favorite sports teams (mostly based in Philadelphia) and traveling to new places.