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MPCA Wants Wipes Labeled "Do Not Flush"

toiletThe Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is asking the State Legislature to ban the "flushable" label from boxes of moist towlettes and wipes, and replace it with a "do not flush" message. So-called "flushable wipes" are designed to be strong, so they do not break down as easily as toilet paper.

The MPCA says multiple Minnesota cities, including Sauk Centre, Cold Spring, Princeton, and Wyoming, are involved in a class-action lawsuit against companies that produce “flushable” wipes. "The problem with these products is their tendency to cause major clogs. Utilities across Minnesota and the rest of the country are spending a lot of money and time fixing clogged pipes and pumps on a regular basis," says Scott Schaefer, AE2S Wastewater Practice Leader.

Schaefer says pumps, screens, and grinders have been updated or redesigned in the past few years to better combat the issue. The MPCA says the City of Lewiston, population 1,591, spent $70,000 to purchase a grinder to take care of its ongoing wipe problem before wastewater makes it to the City's lift station pumps. Prior to the installation of the grinder, Lewiston spent about $15,000 per year to fix clogs caused by wipes.

The MPCA's proposal would ban the use of the words “flushable,” “septic safe,” or “sewer safe” on labels for nonwoven disposable wipes sold in Minnesota. The proposal also requires the packaging to include “do not flush” instructions.

In the meantime, educating utility customers is perhaps the best way to encourage them to throw used wipes in the trash instead of flushing them. The Water Environment Federation (WEF) has a short public education video that illustrates how long it takes toilet tissue, facial tissue, and wipes to break down in the sewer system. WEF also has a list of items that should never be flushed on its website, as well as bill stuffers that are available for purchase.

To review the MPCA's proposal, click here. If you have questions or concerns about how flushable wipes may impact your wastewater system, contact Scott Schaefer, AE2S Wastewater Practice Leader, at Scott.Schaefer@ae2s.com.

If you have any questions concerning the content of this newsletter,
please contact Heather Syverson at 701-364-9111 or Heather.Syverson@ae2s.com.
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