Autobell enhances water-saving efforts
Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013

Autobell enhances water-saving efforts

Autobell says its new above-ground bio reclaim system allows the car wash company to naturally treat and recycle 100 percent of wash water to near-tap-water quality. The Concord Autobell on Church Street is the first of many Charlotte-area stores to get this system.
  • Learn more Up your conservation efforts: About the company: Headquartered in Charlotte, Autobell Car Wash is America’s third largest conveyor car wash company, with 65 locations in North and South Carolina, Virginia and Georgia.

An Autobell Car Wash in Concord is the first of several area locations that will use an above-ground water system that treats and recycles 100 percent of wash water to near-tap-water quality.

Chuck Howard, the owner and CEO of Charlotte-based Autobell, called it a significant transformation that furthers the company’s commitment to water conservation.

“We expect to cut water consumption in half through the application of this new system,” Howard said. “We still need water to flush toilets and for clean up, but the process water should be reduced to eight gallons per car….”

Located at 750 N. Church St., the car wash’s previous treatment and recycling equipment only recycled roughly 80 percent of wash water.

“It is a new application of an existing technology, which makes it possible for a single car wash to recycle all of its wash water to fresh-water quality in a simple, natural manner,” Howard said.

The Concord car wash opened in 2000. In 2007, Autobell began installing underground, closed-loop biological water reclaim systems in all of its newly built car washes.

The system utilizes enzymes that break down and consume oil, dirt and other pollutants in the wash water to produce clean water with no harmful byproducts, said Howard.

Recent technology has introduced a similar, smaller biological water reclaim system that can be installed above ground in existing car washes, where an in-ground system is not feasible.

Investing in these systems is necessary for conservation, cost savings and it’s the company’s environmental responsibility, said Howard.

This new technology comes at a time when water is becoming more in demand as the years-old Albemarle water line project slowly moves forward as part of the Yadkin-PeeDee River interbasin transfer. Cabarrus County and its municipalities sought the project to supplement the county’s drinking water during times of drought.

For several years, the city of Concord has maintained “responsible normal use guidelines,” limiting lawn irrigation to Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Since instituting citywide conservation measures -- irrigation restrictions, education efforts and a tiered rate system -- the average customer has reduced water usage by 20 percent, according to the city’s website.

“I know that Concord, like most growing communities, is constantly looking to the future to be able to provide clean water for use by homes and businesses as well as sewer treatment for waste water…,” said Howard. “But our Church Street location was selected for this first adaptation of our bio reclaim… because it was time to do some remodeling here, it has adequate space and its proximity to our home office made it an easy choice.”

Water reclamation for most car washes has involved recirculating wash water through strainers and filters that can separate large particles from the water but did nothing to take out dissolved solids or detergents, said Howard.

“This results in water that still has a cloudy appearance and filters that need constant maintenance,” said Howard. “The new system works using naturally occurring enzymes to literally consume the hydrocarbons that make up road grime and chemicals washed off cars. This occurs naturally in nature, but we have found a way to concentrate the process to clean 10,000 gallons per hour with no filter media to clog up.”

The new system will add back water lost through evaporation, said Howard, but the real benefits -- a cleaner environment inside the car wash, no odor, lower maintenance and less work for employees -- are intangible.

Washing the car at a professional car wash is the best way to protect the environment from pollution of runoff from driveway car washing, said Howard. The Federal Clean Water act requires car washes to discharge their waste water only into approved sanitary systems.

“In fact, the (Environmental Protection Agency) and large municipalities like Charlotte recommend against washing the car on a hard surface that drains into a storm drain, which is piped directly -- untreated -- to a stream or river,” said Howard. “Instead, they recommend that if you wash the car at home, to do so over a grassy area where the runoff will be filtered by the grass and soil before reaching the storm system.”

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