By Diane M. Calabrese / Published December 2017
It’s a lot easier to find precisely where you are than it is to know definitively what you are supposed to be doing. Query any search engine for IP [internet protocol] address and immediately see your exact position right down to minutes of latitude and longitude. Try to figure out the regulations that affect your business—from licenses and permits to taxes and fees—and you could feel lost in space.
Keeping pace with regulatory and technical updates for our industry is made simpler in localities where power washing contractors must have a business license. In Ohio, for instance, a contractor must have a vendor’s license because power washing services are taxable.
In conjunction with licensing, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency provides detailed information to contractors about environmental regulations they must follow. Suppose a contractor is working at a company that has a stormwater NPDES [national pollution discharge elimination system] permit. The contractor would be incorrect to assume he can discharge his wastewater into the storm sewer the client is authorized to use.
Is it complicated? Definitely. And the state-to-state variation in expectations for contractors makes it more so. In Maryland, a power washing contractor may or may not need a Maryland Home Improvement Commission (MHIC) license. It all depends on the meaning of home improvement. Exterior work that involves coatings and sealers falls in the need-a-license category, while just washing with cold water could perhaps be outside it. Liability insurance and proof of financial solvency are required for licensing in Maryland.
In states where no license is required, environmental regulations must still be met. Permitting for wastewater disposal is often handled by a local or regional entity, and a contractor working in a wide area must know what the rules are at each locale.
At this juncture, there is no repository of all information that a contractor can visit to discover what applies to his company. It takes a lot of effort to stay informed, explains Robert M. Hinderliter, environmental consultant based in Fort Worth, TX.
“The best way I know is to go into various websites and sign up for newsletters and other updates,” says Hinderliter. “You need to go into cities you’re doing business in and sign up for emails.”
Wherever a contractor is working, the goal should be the same, though, explains Hinderliter. That goal is to follow scrupulously the best management practices (BMPs) for the industry. Participation in professional organizations at both the local and national levels is a key part of staying informed.
Hinderliter recommends tapping the technical information available at excellent websites. He suggests Cleanwayusa.com from CleanWay Environmental Partners Inc. in Portland, OR, to learn about the cutting-edge approaches in water filtration solutions. Also, see best practices highlighted by the EPA (EPA.gov.)
Things change rapidly. “The state of California is in the middle of a big test right now,” says Hinderliter. “They want to take storm sewer discharge monitoring down to microns. It’s still in the testing stage.”
But if the change to a low threshold prevails for computation of total daily load (mass of discharge) for pollutants, it will “spread from California across the country,” explains Hinderliter. Essentially, the Golden State is taking an existing federal regulation and making it even stronger at the state level.
The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) is one of six agencies of the umbrella of California EPA (CalEPA). California Proposition 65 falls under the purview of OEHHA. The simplest way to understand the expectations in the proposition is to think about recent news that California coffee drinks may have to carry a warning about being carcinogenic.
Under Prop 65, any chemical deemed a potential carcinogen or a potential cause of reproductive toxicity must be identified on products through warning labels. Dr. Marlo Dean, senior support services manager at Kärcher North America in Camas, WA, detailed the many dimensions to Prop 65 as part of his extensive presentation titled “Regulations Affecting the Pressure Washing Industry” at the CETA annual tradeshow in Las Vegas in September 2017.
Dean emphasizes that liability bound to Prop 65 has a long reach. A product made completely in another state that is purchased by a California customer could drag the manufacturer (or a vendor) into litigation if labeling and warning requirements are not met. The mandatory compliance date is August 30, 2018. (For more information see https://oehha.ca.gov/proposition-65/about-proposition-65.)
In addition to citing Prop 65 as something members of our industry should fully understand, Dean also points to Rule 1147 in California and the definition of a boiler that was recently adopted in Texas as two important regulatory changes in 2017.
New Regulatory Action Rule 1147 (www.aqmd.gov/docs/default-source/rule-book/reg-xi/rule-1147.pdf) applies to pressure washers rated above 325,000 Btu/hour. By July 1, 2020, such pressure washers must
limit emissions to less than one pound per day of NOx (at three percent oxygen). Pressure washers older
than 35 years will have to be replaced.
The third legislative change from 2017 that merits highlighting is the action taken in Texas regarding the classification of a pressure washer heater as a boiler. A pressure washer with a pressure of more than 160 psi that heats water will henceforth be classified as a boiler and subject to rules of the Texas Boiler Board. As such, the pressure washer must meet section one of boiler standards established by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). When being sold to businesses, the pressure washer must be inspected and registered.
Prop 65 and Rule 1147 in California and the boiler classification for pressure washers in Texas are just three examples of activity in 2017 that will immediately affect members of our industry in those states (and beyond, in the instance of Prop 65). It’s also likely that other states will replicate the initiatives at least in part, so the added expectations will eventually reach many industry members.
While Dean was responding to our questions, he had an inquiry illustrating the replication process. “I was contacted by Arizona Public Services—asking questions about pressure washer emissions—because they are gathering information for permitting pressure washers over 325,000 Btu and more than one pound of NOx at three percent oxygen per day,” he explains.
The multiple layers of entities—city, county, state, and federal—crafting codes and rules make it a challenge to stay informed, explains Dean. Moreover, local jurisdictions can see codes overridden by state legislative action.
Dean cites OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), consumer protection agencies, EPA, and CalEPA as the regulating bodies having the biggest influence on our industry. “I try to keep informed by making contact with opinion leaders and having my name on their distribution lists,” he says. “When a product is developed, my job is to understand the market in which this product is being sold.”
The geographic setting and nature of the product both determine the rules and technical expectations that apply. For instance, explains Dean, if the product uses a battery, it must be registered and comply with electrical magnetic frequency (EMF) requirements. “I spend a lot of time researching various regulations to keep informed, which is a difficult task.”
In many cases, working with members of the industry to arrive at a common standard takes a great deal of time. The adoption of UL 60335-2-79 as a product safety standard for pressure washers has been years in the making. The effective date for the new standard is set as March 1, 2021 (when UL 1176 will be withdrawn).
Dean notes that new regulations are being introduced and existing regulations amended continuously, all part of the process of protecting people. He is wholly optimistic about the process. He sees opportunities
for manufacturers, whether they are designing new products—for water treatment or emissions reduction—or improving on existing products.
Although OSHA is the entity directly concerned with worker safety, EPA rules also aim to protect individuals by protecting the environment. Whether through the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act (CWA), or the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (2008, CPSIA), safety of individuals is always part of the picture.
Regulatory updates for 2017 must include mention of the change of administration at the federal level. In general, the executive branch now seems to have a greater interest in states taking the lead for programs designed to protect the environment and safety. For example, on August 18, 2017, the EPA began taking comments (through November 28, 2017) on the definition of “waters of the United States” under the CWA. Is the definition of navigable waters that must be kept free from pollutants too broad (or too narrow)? Does the definition impede economic growth? Comments can be submitted, as with any pending legislation, through the Regulations.gov website, a tool made all the more valuable because comments can be read as well as posted.
[As companion reading to this text, see related Cleaner Times articles: the May 2015 article Recent Trends, Part I: Legislative and Regulatory Updates (www.cleanertimes.com/magazine/cleaner-times-articles-2/recent-trends-part-i-legislative-and-regulatory-updates); and the December 2015 article, Legislative Updates (www.cleanertimes.com/magazine/cleaner-times-articles-2/legislative-update).]