Public Info

Union County’s First Green Car Wash is Off to a Roaring Start

Union County, NJ – Using rainwater collected from a roof, last weekend Cub Scout Pack 145 performed the first known “green” car wash fundraiser in Union County, at the public works building in Clark. The event was a success for the Scouts, who washed almost 100 cars while demonstrating how to conserve water and reduce pollutants.

“I’d like to thank Cub Scout Pack 145 for helping to raise public awareness about the different ways in which we can help clean up our local waterways,” said Freeholder Chairman Linda Carter. “They all did a great job.”

The green car wash was designed by the Rutgers Cooperative Extension Water Resources Program with assistance from Arthur L. Johnson High School students, under a grant from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

Also partnering in the project were Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County (supported in part by the Freeholder Board) and the Township of Clark.

The green car wash is a complete system for harvesting fresh water and disposing of wash water.

The two key features of the system are a 5,000 gallon cistern located on the roof of the public works building, which collects rainwater, and an adjacent rain garden.

Rain gardens are designed to soak up excess storm runoff like a sponge, using special soils and low maintenance plants. They require little or no irrigation, fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides.

Rain gardens are effective ways to prevent pollution from storm runoff in urban areas. In particular, runoff from washing a car at home includes high levels of sediment, heavy metals, oil, grease, surfactants (from soap), and other chemicals that harm fish and other aquatic life.

At the green car wash, runoff is directed to the rain garden, where pollutants are trapped in the soil and are broken down by natural processes.

Otherwise, these pollutants would have entered local storm drain system that eventually leads to the Robinson’s Branch stream, a tributary of the Rahway River.

“It is estimated that 20 gallons of water are used to wash one car with a hose. That’s a lot of wasted water,” said Michele Bakacs, Environmental Agent with the Union County Extension. “Harvesting rainwater is a great alternative for car washing because it helps save the public drinking water supply.”

The green car wash is part of a series of “green infrastructure” projects for the Robinson’s Branch watershed. The goal is to demonstrate environmentally friendly techniques that reduce stormwater runoff and improve water quality in urban neighborhoods.

“Our first County parks date back to the 1920’s and they are some of the earliest examples of green infrastructure,” said Carter. “Now it’s up to our generation to improve upon that legacy.”

The project for the Robinson’s Branch is slated for Rahway, where rain gardens are being installed on residential properties. For more about this project contact Michele Bakacs, 732-398-5274

For more information about Union County Extension programs and activities, including rain gardens and rain barrels, visit or


Please join the County of Union online at, on Facebook at, and on Twitter at