When answering random questions in the same column, it’s always good to have an underlying theme in mind and, this week, the theme is “illicit water activities.” You’re intrigued now, aren’t you? Shall we “dive in”?

Q. What are the regulations about car washes in parking lots, etc.? I see a lot of car wash fund-raisers going on in town. Why is it they are allowed to do that when the city doesn’t want us washing our cars in our own driveways?

A. There are several issues at play in this question, so we’ll start with the easy aspect. A quick search of “car wash” through the Kansan online archives indicates yes, there are a good number of car wash fund-raisers going on. One down.

Now, as the city not wanting people to wash cars in their own driveways, the city is encouraging those home scrub-a-dub-dubbers to wash their autos on a grassy area.

That way, water and pollutants running off in the wash water will be filtered in the turf, said Suzanne Loomis, director of public works.

However, this is an encouragement, not a requirement. Recent stormwater regulations passed by the city intentionally listed occasional home car-washing as one of the exceptions to rules designed to keep nastiness out of the stormwater drainage system (and thus out of Sand Creek).

(It’s important to note the regulations are required as part of a permit the city is required to have by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Translation: It’s not optional.)

To sum up thus far, washing your car at home in the driveway = OK.

Washing your car at home on a grassy surface = much better-ness.

Now, on to the parking lot soak-fests in question. Loomis said those conducting such car washes should be “conscious of regulations prohibiting non-storm water discharge to the stormwater sewer and drainage system.” Again, a pervious area is the way to go (turfed, graveled, etc.) so the water doesn’t discharge to the public drainage system, Loomis said. But having such a car wash in an area where any runoff drains to the public drainage system, even just running over the curb, is a no-no according to the stormwater regs.

(As a sidenote, Loomis said commercial establishments, such as car washes, are required to have runoff from their cleaning activities plumbed through the sanitary sewer system so water is treated at the wastewater treatment plant before entering Sand Creek again.)

So, one last issue inferred from the question: What to do if you see activity that isn’t up to snuff? You can call the city inspection office at 284-6020, and they will come check it out.

And speaking of who to call ...

Q. Isn't it illegal to swim in Sand Creek? If this is illegal, is a person supposed to report this and to whom? Several times a week, as often as every other day, there are people who are swimming in the creek anywhere from the Fifth Street bridge at Athletic Park on north past the Broadway Street bridge. Most times, they are swimming underneath the bridges where they can't be easily seen by vehicles (i.e., police who are cruising the area). There have, in fact, been instances where individuals have jumped off the bridges into the water.

A. Yup, it is illegal to swim in Sand Creek. And from my understanding, it’s not the cleanest water to swim in, anyway. (This is especially true if people fail to wash cars in pervious areas, I suppose. See, these questions are quite related.)

Police Chief Jim Daily said yes, call the police if you see someone taking a dip or a dive in the creek. You do that by calling 911.

Now this may not seem like an “emergency,” and you may be tempted to think it’s not worth a 911 call. But in a previous Go-To Gal question, Don Gruver with Harvey County Communications said that in this county, there is no published seven-digit number to call, and all calls for assistance should go through 911. It doesn’t have to be a life-or-death emergency. (But don’t call for sketchy car wash runoff. We’ve covered that already.)

And that concludes the discussion in illicit water activities. Tune in next week for more random-ness.