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

Clyde Shavers, left, and Greg Gilday.
Shavers wins by narrow margin as Dems flip seat in 10th District

Democrat Clyde Shavers won by 211 votes against incumbent state Rep. Greg Gilday. It’s close enough for a recount.

Edmonds man hospitalized after shooting in Arlington

The man, 30, was found Monday night in the 500 block of N. Macleod Avenue after reports of an assault.

Snow lingered outside the office building of Receivables Performance Management on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Lynnwood data breach exposed sensitive info for 3.7 million across US

Lawsuits allege lax security at a debt collection agency led to the attack. It wasn’t announced for over a year.

The Washington State Patrol was investigating a fatal crash involving multiple vehicles Thursday on Highway 530 near Oso. (Washington State Patrol)
1 killed, 1 injured in crash east of Arlington

There was no detour for several hours Thursday afternoon as detectives investigated the four-vehicle collision.

Teen killed in Everett crash, shooting identified

No arrests have been made in the Friday night killing of 17-year-old Gabriel Kartak, of Seattle.

The crab doughnut at Market in Edmonds is a strange delight, with a sweet and dense glazed doughnut topped with bright and briny dungeness crab salad, nutty browned butter and a shower of smoky bacon bits. (Taylor Goebel / The Herald)
This idyllic dining destination is right in Snohomish County

Edmonds boasts fresh seafood, Caribbean-inspired sandwiches, artisan breads, cocktails and more.

Marysville Jail (City of Marysville)
Man with hepatitis C accused of spitting on Marysville jail staff

Hepatitis C is usually spread through blood. The suspect, 28, faces allegations of exposing the officers to a contagious disease.

NO CAPTION. Logo to accompany news of Washington state.
Medicare open enrollment ends Dec. 7

Find information and resources to help make the best choice for you.

Sunlight illuminates a framed photograph of Mila and Wilfrido Sarmiento while their daughter Rowella Sarmiento cries reading her statement to the court during Caleb Wride’s sentencing on Monday, Nov. 28, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
At sentencing, family mourns parents killed in fatal DUI crash

Caleb Wride, 23, of Everett, was sentenced Monday for the head-on crash that killed Mila and Wilfrido Sarmiento.

Most Read