Every day, hundreds of thousands of taxis, livery cabs, and privately owned cars traverse New York City’s streets, collecting ample dirt and grime along the way. Car washes in New York City have become a big business, and a dirty one at that. There are approximately 200 car washes throughout the five boroughs, yet the city has almost no oversight over the car wash industry.
Aware of industry history of wage and hour violations and anecdotal evidence that the industry might be acting inappropriately in other areas, the WASH NY campaign sought to learn about the impact of the car wash industry on consumers and the city’s environment. Expert analysis of potential environmental problems and anecdotal evidence of actual practices suggest a need for the City to regulate the industry.
After talking to environmental experts about potential environmental impact issues that may concern car washes — wastewater and sludge disposal in particular — WASH NY researchers interviewed workers at 24 different car washes throughout New York City. Workers were asked to describe their knowledge of their car washes’ practices for filtering wastewater, disposing of the sludge that collects in the filters, and responding to customers who have had their vehicles damaged by the car wash.
Researchers also conducted a review of common online resources to identify customer complaints about service at car washes in New York City. The sources reviewed include Yelp, Yahoo! Local, City Search, Insider Pages, and Google+. Researchers studied online customer reviews from 54 different car washes throughout the five boroughs.