A semi truck blows smoke out of its exhaust pipes Friday while driving southbound on I-5 in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

A semi truck blows smoke out of its exhaust pipes Friday while driving southbound on I-5 in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Reader: Did a tractor-trailer cover my car in diesel soot?

Probably not, according to a Department of Ecology spokesperson, since diesel emissions are getting “cleaner.”

With wildfire ash spreading across Western Washington, cars are a little dirty these days.

Even before the debris from charred flora blew this way, Fabian Borowiecki’s car needed a wash.

The Everett resident said he was driving home from Marysville and was behind a semi approaching the on-ramp to southbound Interstate 5. As it motored up to the freeway, it emitted the usual black smoke, Borowiecki said.

But when he got closer, he saw a “very fine spray of black something” coating his windshield. He used the windshield fluid and wiper, but that didn’t get rid of it.

“That was a mistake because the washer fluid and wipers just smeared those black dots over the whole windshield as if I was looking through wrinkled wax paper,” he wrote to The Daily Herald. “I kept hitting the washer button and after another couple seconds I was finally able to see out better.”

When he got home, he checked his car and found the small black residue across its front end. Borowiecki didn’t think it was road tar because it came off much easier than past experiences with it. But he wondered if it was diesel soot, and about the emission regulations for semis.

Diesel exhaust is considered the most harmful toxic air pollutant to people in the state, with nearly 5 million people exposed to high levels of it, according to the Washington State Department of Ecology. The largest sources of it in the state are heavy duty trucks (semis), ships, construction equipment, locomotives, farm equipment and buses.

The residue could be from leaking fluid rather than an emissions issue, Washington State Department of Ecology Air Quality Program spokesperson Susan Woodward wrote in an email.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates semis’ diesel emissions, which have declined since 1974, Woodward wrote. A large reduction in diesel particulate emission happened after new standards began for engines made after 1994 and 2007, as well as a requirement to burn ultra-low sulfur diesel, Woodward wrote.

At the same time, global carbon emissions from fossil fuels continue their steady increase, according to the EPA.

Washington adopted the same vehicle emission standards as California in 2020. California’s regulations practically mean all vehicles sold there must be electric, hydrogen-fueled or at least plug-in hybrid by 2035, as reported by CNN.

Other states might follow, according to the Associated Press.

Washington’s Department of Ecology is working to adopt California’s emission standards, which were aligned with the EPA until recently, Woodward wrote. But the Advanced Clean Truck Rule phases in a requirement for 40% of new semi-truck sales to be zero-emission vehicles by 2040.

“Washington is currently adopting more stringent emission standards on the path to cleaner vehicles,” Woodward wrote. “Ultimately, the new emission standard rules will apply to the manufacturers and distributors of heavy duty truck engines and vehicles.”

That could make for a cleaner future, but it won’t hurt to keep the washer fluid full.

Have a question? Call 425-339-3037 or email streetsmarts@heraldnet.com. Please include your first and last name and city of residence.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Logo for news use featuring Whidbey Island in Island County, Washington. 220118
Head-on crash on south Whidbey Island hospitalizes 3 people

Alcohol or drugs were involved, per the Washington State Patrol. Two victims are Lake Forest Park teens.

Marysville man dies after motorcycle crash on Ingraham Boulevard

The man, 58, was heading east when he lost control in the single-vehicle crash, according to police.

Builders work on the Four Corners Apartments on Beverly Lane near Evergreen and 79th Place SE on Wednesday, March 1, 2023 in Everett, Washington. DevCo, the real estate company building the affordable housing, is receiving a $1 million grant from the city of Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
As Washington rents go up, up, up, the air gets thin for tenants

Hal Zack’s rent has tripled, and he’s scared he’ll be homeless soon. How did we get here? And what is the state doing now?

People walk down through a row of trees planted in remembrance of those lost in the Oso Mudslide on Tuesday, March 22, 2022 in Oso, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Oso mudslide 9th year memorial set for Wednesday

The public is invited to attend this year’s remembrance ceremony at the site of the slide that killed 43 people in 2014.

An Everett police officer and deputies with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office were involved in an officer-involved shooting on Saturday, March 11, 2023, at the 800 block of 91st Pl SW in Everett. (Everett Police Department)
Officers identified in fatal shooting of Everett man

Everett police officer Blake Wintch had seven years of service, while Snohomish County Deputy Myles Bittinger had nine years.

Richard Rotter listens to witness questioning in his trial at the Snohomish County Courthouse in Everett, Washington on Monday, March 20, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
‘It is going to be grim’: Trial begins in Everett officer’s slaying

After days of jury selection, 15 people were empaneled to decide if Richard Rotter is guilty of aggravated first-degree murder.

Everett Memorial Stadium and Funko Field on Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Drive to build new AquaSox ballpark gets $7.4M boost from state

The proposed Senate capital budget contains critical seed money for the city-led project likely to get matched by the House.

Judge Bruce Weiss speaks to the attorneys during jury selection at the Snohomish County Courthouse on Tuesday, March 14, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Dozens dismissed as jury is pared in Richard Rotter trial

The process came to a halt Friday when an unidentified man told some potential jurors to give “the chair” to Dan Rocha’s alleged killer.

Left to right, Saharah Mendoza, Cielo Mendoza and Octavio Mendoza, reunite in Everett, Washington on Friday, March 17, 2023. The USS Barry arrived to its new homeport at Everett Naval Station, previously from Yokosuka, Japan. The crew is led by Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Grant Bryan. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
USS Barry sails in to new home, Naval Station Everett

Three-hundred sailors arrived Friday in Everett after the destroyer’s six-year deployment in Japan.

Most Read