General Question

flo's avatar

Why would a city have a bylaw against changing the oil in your car on your driveway?

Asked by flo (12974points) July 10th, 2016

What would be the reason for a bylaw against changing your car oïl on your driveway?

And do they teach that at the driving school?

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25 Answers

Rarebear's avatar

Because the oil is often not disposed of properly.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Because the city doesn’t want you to pour it down the storm sewer, if there is a spill. I was taught to change it in the garage on “jack-stands”, so I didn’t get chrushed.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Where does such a law exist?

elbanditoroso's avatar

I can think of two.

First, as @Tropical_Willie says, there’s potential runoff or disposal issues.

Second, I think that it’s a class / neighborhood thing. I think that the perception is that lower class neighborhoods (white trash if you want) have lots of undrivable cars in the yard, and the lower classes change their own oil.

Upper class, higher quality neighborhoods have residents that get oil changed commercially.

I’m not saying I agree with this, just that it’s a possible perception.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

there’s potential runoff or disposal issues

Then the law would be about runoff and disposal, regardless of where you change your oil.

It sounds more like an HOA thing than a local ordinance.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

I have known strata complexes to have rules against this, but I haven’t heard of privately owned homes having a bylaw against this.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

@SQUEEKY2 I had to look up “strata complex”. The American equivalent is condominium.

I think the question is about single family homes, and in the US, suburban single family homes are often ruled by Home Owners Associations (HOAs). It’s private contract you sign when you buy the house.

People make the news fairly often for fighting the HOA. Boats in the driveway, too many cars, landscaping restrictions, painting your house the wrong color, etc.

CWOTUS's avatar

As @Call_Me_Jay notes, it’s probably a HOA thing. In fact, this seems pretty cleverly done. What they really want to stop is all of those tinkerers and motorheads (and I say that affectionately) who like spending time under the hoods of their cars. But they’d get a lot of backlash if they militated against that directly. So they pass this rule instead, because these days most homeowners don’t change their own oil, anyway, so most people would be on board with the restriction on “no oil changes in driveways” … and it lets them up the ante sometime in the future (after all of the likely oil-changers had been forced out of the neighborhood by this restriction) to passing the regulation that they really want, which is “no car hoods to be opened in driveways for more than a half-hour per week” or something equally restrictive.

And at that point, most of those remaining would go along with that, too.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Yep, hoa is likely. I used to still sneak in a quick fix like a brake job when we lived under an hoa. I was usually done before anyone had a chance to complain.

BellaB's avatar

It’s a municipal bylaw issue here (Canada). The big issue is disposal. People are lazy and dump the cr@p into the storm sewer .

We’ve had bylaws against storm drain disposal for over 20 years in most cities I’ve lived in during the past 50+ years (I keep up on the news).

MrGrimm888's avatar

Because people are assholes. They would throw the used oil anywhere. Oil requires strict guidelines for disposal. And for good reason.

kritiper's avatar

I’ll have to go along with improper disposal.
(BTW, one quart of oil, disposed of improperly into the environment, pollutes 250,000 gallons of water.)

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

Most Florida cities have laws against this. It’s due to the dumping and run-off issues. When I was a kid in the 1960s, everyone, including my father, changed their own oil in the driveway and dumped the old motor oil into the sewer without a second thought. Believe it or not, there are still a few recalcitrant dinosaurs around who still don’t take this issue seriously. Today, a violation of this sort can result in civil penalties up to $25,000 plus federal fines up to $50,000 and/or a prison sentence up to five years under the Clean Water Act and a plethora of other anti-polution laws.

It is still a problem at marinas, as well. There are federal anti-dumping laws applying to all waters within the 200 mile limit of the US, “including all the Great Lakes, the Great Salt Lake, all river basins and all other bodies of inland water within US borders.” They are enforced by the United States Coast Guard and the USCG Auxiliary within the 200 mile limit. Violations may result in the same civil and federal penalties described in the paragraph above.

There is a whole section on this in the battery of tests one must take for a USCG civilian Captain’s license.

According to the USCG:

1 quart of motor oil pollutes 250,000 gallons of drinking water.
1 quart of motor oil spreads a 2 acre oil slick.
A 2 acre oil slick will negatively affect the ecological balance of 3 miles of coastline before dissipating.

How Oil Impacts Higher Marine Lifeforms (An excerpt from a NOAA bulletin from a required reading list of texts to prep for the Captain’s exam)

Besides being toxic if consumed by bird life, oil interrupts the micro structure of bird plumage and destroys its waterproofing and insulating properties causing both hyper- and hypothermia often resulting in death.

The amount of petroleum products ending up in the ocean is estimated at 0.25% of world oil production, or about 6 million tons per year, or approx 48 million gallons.

And that is our oil lesson for today. ;-)

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

So the law is don’t change your oil in your driveway or don’t dump oil in the storm drain? They are not the same.

MrGrimm888's avatar

You can’t oversee, or enforce simply not dumping it. The most logical way to end dumping was to make it illegal to even change the oil. We have laws where I work ,where you can’t have alcohol on the beaches or streets. That’s because the law of ‘no littering ’ wasn’t effective. People came and destroyed the beach (Folly Beach,SC), so they made it illegal to walk around with alcohol period. People couldn’t be trusted to not throw beer cans and cups on the beach. So they took away the ability. One place I work has a $1,000 open container fine! And they totally give the tickets our with impunity….
As in most cases, the actions of some have repercussions on the many.
So because people used to (and still do) carelessly dispose of oil, you can’t even attempt it without a problem.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

@MrGrimm888 Some local laws outlaw different aspects of the same thing. It’s up to whomever you elected as your local representatives. They usually look around, not too hard, and copy a template from some other town or county. If you’ve elected smart people who are actually interested in civil government and their community versus being a local celeb or using their stint as a rung up the corporate ladder, you get better laws. A lot of these laws also have to do with unsightliness of oil stains on driveways. It’s a matter of taste, but that’s the way it is.

But don’t kid yourself, it’s mostly about dumping and run-off. It’s a much bigger problem than most people think. Here’s a few more stats for ya:

Acccording to the USCG:

Only 5% of the oil entering the world’s oceans come from oil spills (think Exxon Valdiz—11 million gal/42 million liters of oil, or the 87-day 2010 Deepwater Horizon GoM Disaster—134 million gallons/507.3 million liters).

10% comes from sewage treatment plants (mostly dumping and street run-off).

The other 85% comes from world-wide recreational boating and land run-off which is mostly due to urban street run-off, agricultural petrochemicals and dumping.

Let me ask you this: How would you dispose of old motor oil in suburbia or elsewhere? Dump it in a field? Down the drain? Under federal HAZMAT laws, you can no longer legally store it in your garage or anywhere on your property without a license, proper containers and inspections. What are you going to do with it? What can you do with it? What will most people be tempted to do with it? City councils have anticipated this problem and have passed ordinances that prevent you from taking the oil out of your car in the first place. Yes, it’s draconian. Get in line.

Have you checked the local, state and federal laws on proper disposal lately and the penalties for not following those laws? Trust me, it’s a hell of a lot easier and cheaper to take an hour of your time, run down to Jiffy-Lube and pay the $19.95.

Ha. In rural Florida in the 1960’s, the more civic minded people would dump their old motor oil into the nearest lake or pond instead of wasting it down the sewer. It was considered the responsible thing to do. They called it mosquito control.

JLeslie's avatar

It’s either because it’s unsightly, or because of the oil in the sewer, just as everyone else suggested. Unsightly reasons are usually controlled by an HOA not he city, but it can be local government too.

I hope there isn’t a law against changing oil in the three counties in Florida our company does it. We do it in the street, not the driveway. All oil is disposed of correctly.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

Excuse me, but the above post was meant not for @MrGrimm888, but for @Call_Me_Jay and others here who object to the seemingly draconian local ordinances concerning changing oil in driveways.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

I’m not objecting. I am asking if it’s really true. I think a law against dumping oil might be misinterpreted as a law against changing oil. And nobody has shown a documented example.

A quick Google shows street repairs were illegal in Los Angeles in 2003.

But that’s not about driveways.

BellaB's avatar

The most recent (2000) Toronto bylaw re disposal.

There is no law/by-law against completing oil changes at home in the region. Lots of information on how/when you can dispose of the oil containers as well as used oil at various hazardous waste drop-off locations.

Recent article with a bit on illegal dumping.

Illegally dumping oil can lead to hefty fines and an astronomical bill for environmental cleanup. Municipalities have successfully followed the oil trail left inside storm drains and/or used security video to track down and charge those responsible.

BellaB's avatar

I found the part I quoted interesting as the city guys were in the area recently – putting cameras down drains and pipes. I wonder if they were looking for evidence of an illegal oil dump.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Where I live you can change your own oil but you obviously can’t dump it. I just take it to my local walmart to be recycled.

flo's avatar

I haven’t finished reading the answers yet but:
Can people not send things down the drain from within the house? I guess they can’t do anything about that. I think the emphasis should be don’t dump/spill oil down the drain ever not on where you can or can’t change your oïl.

kritiper's avatar

@flo It’s not just dumping the oil down a drain. It’s dumping it on the ground, out in the alley, in someone else’s patch of dirt, etc. It still ends up in the ground water, rivers, oceans. I caught a neighbor of mine who had put the used oil back in the plastic bottles and then put them in the trash for the landfill.

flo's avatar

@kritiper Got it.
Thanks all.

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