parking lots

Measures to target oil pollution in parking lots

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Pollution from big oil spills or from a manufacturing facility that is pumping out fumes and discharging pollutants is declining now that it’s easier to manage being in one place.

However, a non-point pollution source, like oil in parking lots or the exhaust from cars, is increasing, especially in parking lots. Here, Kevin Daum, founder and president of Save the Oceans Inc., who is also a supplier of non-toxic cleaning products, offers advice on how facility managers can create cleaner environments, while significantly reducing cost.

How prevalent is non-point pollution like oil in parking lots and why has the issue been overlooked?

A landmark study at the University of British Columbia determined oil in parking lots is the largest form of non-point source pollution poisoning our aquatic world.

In buildings, people use everything from kitty litter, card board or toxic degreasers and solvents to try to clean it up. Unfortunately, this ends up going down the drain or gets put in the garbage.

Oil in parking lots is usually seen as a cleaning nuisance because it tracks onto carpets and looks bad. Most people never think of the billions of oil stains everywhere and what they are doing to our water. When they see how huge the problem is, they want to do something about it. Unfortunately, because they don’t have the science and technology to clean without polluting, they resort to using ineffective methods, which usually means a pressure washing company that uses toxic degreasers and flushes them down the drain. “Out of sight; out of mind.”

But the solution for building owners is to use a third party eco certified oil remover, along with an absorbent material that actually breaks the oil down. When doing a large pressure washing job the contractor needs to have the filtration material that separates the oil and heavy metals so that it is not discharged down the drain. This a process I patented.

Are there any initiatives facility managers can take advantage of to help mitigate damage?

Two key things are needed if we are going to save our streams, rivers, lakes and oceans from oil poisoning. The first is the technology that is cost effective to clean it up. The second is knowledge and awareness.

Recently, we formed Oil Spill Response Team, which is a community corporation that, by law, must donate 40 per cent of its profit back into the community to repair the damage caused by oil pollution. We donated this corporation to First Nations so that we could use the money to train First Nation’s youth to be licensed spill responders and create jobs. This way, building owners will have licensed clean up experts available to clean up the oil properly with the proper technology. Also, if a big spill happens we will have an army of trained people ready to deploy.

Technology is now available to clean oil, while ending the waste stream. It costs about ten to twenty cents on the dollar to do it properly.

In Vancouver, we have maintenance janitorial companies that use a dry clean rotation method every week. The process is simple. Each week when they are doing their regular cleaning, they tell ten to twenty condo owners to park outside and they clean the oil spots that night and the next week they do the next ten to twenty spots. Companies like Service Master in Surrey B.C. are setting up to offer this service to all clients or supply the material and training to in-house staff.

Another method is to simply tell the owner or renter of the stall they must clean up and then supply them with the product and/or service at a fixed price. The property management company buys a bunch of kits and issues them out when necessary. It’s really that simple to clean up when you understand the science. We can all help save the oceans.

What are other benefits of implementing proper clean up strategies?

Building managers and their maintenance teams are spending far too much money trying to clean up this oil, and in most cases, inadvertently violate Worker’s Compensation Board (WCB) and environmental regulations.

What building owners need is a parking lot pollution prevention and maintenance program. Scientists like to call these best management practices. All this means is you specify which products can be used for the clean up and how to make sure no oil goes down the drain or is transferred into the garbage.

The best management goal is simple. Don’t let anything go down the drain apart from clean water and don’t pick up waste and transfer it to the land fill; it ends up somewhere else in the water table.

An easy way to understand this is to watch this video of an actual spill clean-up.


Kevin Daum is founder and president of Save the Oceans Inc. He formulates and supplies major retailers (i.e. Canadian Tire) and industry with unique replacements for toxic cleaners, solvents and innovative oil spill cleanup products. He has several patents, patent pending’s and trademarks.