News Feature | July 11, 2017

D.C. To Regulate 'Flushable' Wipes

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

capitol reg new.jpg

Washington D.C. will begin cracking down on flushable wipes next year in an effort that could lead other states to regulate the pesky products.

“Starting next year, companies that make wet wipes sold in the District must prove that products labeled ‘flushable’ won’t damage the pipes. Otherwise, the package must make it clear that flushing the wipes is a no-no,” The Washington Post reported.

“Proponents of the bill — including DC Water, the city’s water utility — say the standards are needed because most wet wipes do not break down when flushed, causing stoppages in the sewer system,” WAMU reported.

Six states, including Maryland, are considering similar measures, the report said.

The D.C. law, despite already passing the city council, could be reversed if the U.S. Congress decides to undo it. U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, R-MD, may introduce legislation to block the D.C law.

“Since Congress has the ultimate say over what goes on in Washington, D.C., it’s possible we would deal with this through an appropriations measure that makes D.C. think twice about banning a product that’s helpful — flushable wipes,” Harris said, per the report.

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-DC, argued that members of Congress from other states should let D.C. make its own decision on this. She blamed industry for stirring up resistance to the law in Congress.

“This is a serious issue,” she said, “but it’s hard not to laugh when a lobbyist group is trying to keep the Congress from taking action that would keep its own sewers and the sewers of the District of Columbia from being stopped up.”

Cities across the country have faced problems with wipes. Here’s how a lawsuit about flushable wipes, filed last year, explained the problem, per the Star Tribune: “Flushable wipes remain intact long enough to pass through private wastewater drain pipes into the municipal sewer line, causing clogs and other issues for municipal and county sewer systems and wastewater treatment plants, resulting in thousands, if not millions, of dollars of damages.”

George Hawkins, general manager of D.C. Water, described the wipe problem like this: “We have seen them at all stages of the treatment process. It’s like a gluing agent that can capture other things and cause backups.”

The Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry represents flushable wipes manufacturers. It says the product is “compatible” with healthy sewer systems, the Post report said.

To read more about the issues presented by so-called “flushable” wipes visit Water Online’s Flushables Solutions Center.

Image credit: "U.S. Capitol, 7 a.m." Bates College © 2009, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/