Lawsuits are piling up and INDA (the Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics) is beginning to worry.
Backstory: INDA has received 15 lawsuits so far for having a hand in some detrimental sewer problems from flushable wipes. Two of the lawsuits have already been settled and ended without a monetary loss to the Association. As of now, it cannot be proven that wipes in compliance with flushability regulations are solely to blame. However, 93% of the wipes tonnage used today is not marketed as flushable – and this is what makes INDA worry will get them into hot water.
So, as INDA hits the drawing board to come up with more flushability regulations for its industry to follow, lawyers are just getting warmed up.
“We are working with these manufacturers, converters and brand owners because there are increased risks if they don’t label their products under our Code of Practice,” he says. “The entire wipes industry needs to pay attention to this.” – Dave Rousse, President of INDA
Kerry County, Ireland, experienced a large amount of sewage discharging into the Mulaghi River this month.
After video footage and complaints from local residents surfaced, county officials dug in to find a cause.
The outcome? Sewage is believed to have been leaking into the river for several days before it was finally noticed. Council workers arrived at the scene only to find the pipes causing the discharge were completely clogged by a build up of wipes.
The well-know brand Kleenex recently responded to questions from Ad News’ Watchdog about whether their wipes should be labeled as ‘flushable’ due to recent findings around the world that supposedly flushable wipes are causing major plumbing blockages.
AdNews: Do you think there should be a warning on the packaging saying they do not disintegrate like toilet paper?
Kleenex: We just go by whatever the government says. If you want more information I’ll get your details and get someone to call you back.
While wipes remain at the top of the hit list for damaging pipes and clogging sewer systems, we must not forget that toilet paper can still be a large culprit of destruction.
It’s time that we start following in the footsteps of our more innovative counterparts overseas and begin using alternative methods to get cleaner – so, kiss your plunger goodbye forever (not literally, please) and say hello to the bidet. You’ll save money and resources AND feel cleaner….what’s better than that?
“Frankly, I got a bidet to ease the burden on my own infrastructure. But a second benefit is how much water I’m saving by eliminating most of the need for toilet paper, a water-intensive product at the production stage.”
“I estimate the pressurized squirting action uses one or two cups per appointment. But that’s nothing compared to the estimated 13 gallonsof water it takes to produce one roll of TP. And then there are the trees I’m saving. Global TP production uses an estimated 27,000 trees, daily. Additionally, I’m saving lots of money.
Furthermore, bidets will help prevent municipal pipes from clogging and ease sewage treatment processes.”
Hugo Gonzalez, a Leucadia Wastewater District technician, prepares a camera to search for roots in a Carlsbad, Calif., sewer line. Without normal levels of outdoor irrigation, tree roots in search of water have invaded sewer pipes and grown there over time. (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)
With California experiencing severe drought, Californians are on high alert for water conservation and have been diligent in efforts to slash water usage. However, in this LA Times article by Matt Stevens, he explains how water conservation is creating another issue in the sewage systems.
With less flow to flush the solids down the system, those solids are collecting and can eventually damage pipes. If flows go lower, stuff (including the wipes) could stop moving in some lines….
By lowering water usage, chances of solids getting clogged in smaller pipes are higher and it is causing extra maintenance and expenses for the city.
Specialty hygienic wipe products are entering the market in a bearded storm. We noticed a trend when Dude Wipes started gaining popularity with the “dudes”. Well now there’s a new product for men with beards.
Septic care can be just easy as beard care, it’s as simple as disposing it in the proper trash bin and not the toilet!
The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments started a campaign to help educate civilians about the villains that harm pipes and pumps. These criminals include expired medication, wipes, and FOGS (fats, oils and grease)!
In early 2011, the Maine Water Environment Association conducted a study across the Maine in respect to the flushable wipes issue. From the 58 responses they received, they found that:
90% indicated they were having problems
40% indicated that they had more than 10 incidents in the previous year
Estimated costs were nearly $600,000 or an average of $37,500 per town
In Portland, ME officials reported spending $4.5 million installing screens in two pump stations.
“We estimated based on the capital costs of those screens, and the labor and disposal of the wipes, we were paying $800 per dry pound of wipes,” – Michelle Clements, a spokeswoman for the Portland (ME) Water District.
Not only are wipes damaging equipment, interfering with pump stations, but they are also affecting the environment. When there is an overflow at the pump stations, the extra water goes out into the Penobscot River, carrying with it the unintended sewage and materials as well.
Disposable Wipes and rags are overwhelming lift station pumps around the world. It’s not the pumps fault – they are only designed for “normal sewage”. The reality is that when wipes combine with FOG and hair in collections systems they can create ragballs that no pump can handle. Our research shows that about 85% of lift stations are not equipped to deal with the problem and the wipes usage is growing every year. Not every lift station has the problem – but when they do JWC Muffin Monsters with Wipes Ready Technologiesare the right answer.
If your facility is facing pump clogging problems the first place to look for answers is with JWC Muffin Monsters. Our Dual shafted sewage and sludge grinders have come to the rescue of enough “non-clog” pumps to know this is not the best solution.
Sydney, Australia – A survey of consumers in the Illawarra region reports that there are at least one in four residents who flush wet wipes down the toilet, and the cost, is adding up.
As one D.C homeowner speculated, “the cost per sheet of flushable wipe is $1—meaning for every flushable wipe, $.10 is for the wipe, and $.90 goes to the plumber.” Sydney Water reports that frustrated residents are paying anywhere from from $300 to $16,000 for a clog or backup. The image below was sent to Sydney Water by a woman who spent $16,000 to fix her blocked pipe.
Each year, Sydney Water removes 500 tonnes of wipes from the wastewater network at a cost of $8 million. Clean-outs reportedly occur on a regular basis, and require specialized equipment and manual labor at a costly expense. The Water Services Association of Australia estimates wet wipes are costing water utilities $15 million per year.
Shellharbour sewage pumping station cleaning out a blockage of wet wipes. Photo: Illawarra Mercury
One-tonne of wet wipes being removed at Eleebana. Photo: Hunter Water
Choice, a consumer advocacy group in Australia, tested the durability of these Kleenex flushable wipes for kids and adults. The Kleenex website promises that their wipes break down in the sewerage system like toilet paper however, when put to the test, they held together for over 21 hours.
To combat the false and misleading claims of these wipes manufacturers, Choice has started a campaign to stop them from marketing and selling wipes as “flushable”. You can join the movement, here!
A small town in Pennsylvania, East Rochester Borough experiences a build up of wipes in sewer lines and pump stations. About twice a month, workers will go in and clean out the wipes, however they can cause costly problems for the equipment. The town had recently spent $28,000 to replace two of their pumps that help with transporting sewage water into waste water treatment plants.
“I don’t think people don’t realize they don’t biodegrade, I’ve seen them in pump stations, and the sewer plants and stuff and they’ve been down there for more than a year.” -Matt Sharpless, Maintenance Worker in East Rochester
East Rochester along with other Western Pennsylvania towns and cities, including Pittsburgh have seen similar problems. These cities strongly advise wipe users to watch what they flush and avoid flushing anymore wipes down the toilet.
ITV follows sewerage employees from Wessex Water, a water company based in UK to get further insight on how wipes are affecting operations. You can watch their interviews here.
According to Wessex Water, they spend millions of pounds each year as they try to clear clogs caused by flushed wipes. In the last year they’ve been called out to clear over 13,000 blockages. And research suggests a quarter of the blockages are from wipes labelled as “flushable”.
Wipes have to be fished out of raw sewage Credit: ITV News
There is no let down in sight of this persistent problem – “Flushable” Wipes. Here at JWC Environmental, we thrive to provide you with as much information on the incessant issues facing our water in America today and the forecast to come by staying up to date on the matter. The photo above look familiar?
Here’s a recent article we discovered interviewing Cynthia Finley of NACWA on this problem to which the photo is credited:
Flushable Wipes and Sewer Problems
Different pumps will react differently based on the way they operate, their age, and the volume of material being handled, says Finley. “Wastewater collection systems and treatment plants are so variable throughout the country and there are many different types of conditions you can encounter,” she adds.
Our Solution? The Muffin Monsterfitted with our latest Wipes Ready Technology. The Muffin Monster and pumps have been working hand in hand for decades to improve wastewater treatment efficiency globally.
Ask one of our Muffin Monster Experts, how we can upgrade your system and be rid of the “Wipes Problem” once and for all.
In an ongoing class action lawsuit between Target and lead plaintiff, Christopher Meta,allegations such as fraud and breach of implied warrant are made against Target’s Up & Up flushable wipes brand.
In this recent article, the motion that Target Corp. filed to dismiss the class action lawsuit gets shot down by Judge Donald C. Nugent. He instructs the company to turn over its sales and revenue data, stating that those numbers would be useful for calculating damages.
“The current motion, therefore, was not so much a motion for clarification as a motion for reconsideration,” the judge said. “In either event, it is denied.”
In North Liberty, Iowa, homeowner Brent Smith experiences a sewage backup that floods into his basement due to a backflow preventer failure. When officials reach the scene, they find white tissue type paper, most likely adult wet wipes, clogging the pipelines.
Something that seems so simple that nobody really thinks about, we all take for granted. We turn the water faucet on, we flush the toilet, take a shower, it’s down and away, and you don’t ever think about it,” Smith said.
Resident Brent Smith is not alone in this issue as North Liberty officials have seen an increase of non-disposable wipes in the city’s pipes. To prevent sewage backups, Street’s Superintendent Don Colony heed others to get their backflow preventers serviced by a plumber every year and to watch what they flush down the toilet.
Thames Water reminds us to watch what we flush, especially this holiday season. Any cooking grease, turkey drippings, gravy, or wipes should be disposed of properly in the trash bin. That will avoid any sewer clogs and backups, so these sewermen can get back to singing throughout the holidays.
Wastewater professionals are well aware that debris has changed significantly over the last ten years, either through first-hand experience or industry horror story. From the bus-sized fatberg festering within the London sewer system to the pending wipes lawsuit in Minnesota and public outreach efforts to change consumer behavior, municipalities the world over are feeling the overwhelming frustration caused by these seemingly innocent pieces of non-woven fabric. Not only is the waste running through our system tougher and more prevalent than ever before, our aging infrastructure simply can’t keep up. Undersized, original equipment is especially prone to clogging and breakdown, and gradual pipeline and channel deterioration compounds that problem exponentially.
Read Part 2 or Part 3 of this three-part series examining wipes in the waste stream.
Three girls from Mercy secondary school in Ireland recently won the Ocean Hero Award for a campaign that helped raise awareness on environmental issues caused by flushed wipes. The inspiration for the idea came from a beach clean-up event where they discovered an average of 60 wet wipes per square meter, mostly tangled up in the seaweed.
Their campaign efforts was a combination of spreading awareness in social and local media as well as visiting primary schools to speak.
Urbanized cities such as London, Denver, and New York are largely affected by fatbergs – forms of solidified cooking fat, oils, and grease (FOGs) that get mixed with wipes and other objects in the sewer system. These different solutions that the wastewater community have taken to combat the fatbergs are worth mentioning.
In London, workers will dispatch these fatbergs with spades, chemicals and high-pressure hoses. It is a manual process of hacking at the fatberg in order to break the solidified fat down to prevent clogged pipes and damaged infrastructure.
New York and Dallas has implemented programs to educate the public such as the Cease the Grease campaign.
In South Yorkshire Sheffield University, students have invented the “fatberglar”: a device under the sink, seeded with specially designed bacteria to degrade FOGs.
And in San Francisco and Atlanta, they’ve converted fatbergs into biodiesel fuel, which are used to power school buses, city vehicles and machinery.
This PSA by Queensland Urban Utilities looks like it belongs in a movie preview. The dramatic video effects creates an urgent warning for the dangers in flushing wipes. Watch as the video greatly illustrates the real issues at the wastewater treatment plants and what the workers there have to deal with on a daily basis!
The demand for wipes has rapidly spread across the world. According to a study by Reportbuyer, the world demand for wipes is predicted to grow 5.1% annually into 2018. The market growth expands to developing areas and key markets such as manufacturing and healthcare markets as they are expected to incorporate more cleaning and disinfecting practices.
This growth trend for wipes is driven by factors of urbanization and rises in income. Developed areas particularly with consumers who lead busier lifestyles, have higher demands for these convenience products. The US alone makes up almost one-fourth of sales worldwide with China closely behind in sales that nearly doubled from years 2008 to 2013.
Last month, TPO sat down with Dave Rousse, the president of INDA, to discuss the initiatives of the nonwoven fabrics industry and how the wipes are currently being addressed.
Wipes have always been an ongoing issue in the wastewater community, however it has worsened as the demand continues to grow. Flushability guidelines were first introduced in 2007 and since then, it has been redrafted three times with the most recent edition in 2013. The need for a stronger framework is undeniable with new advances in technology and collected data. INDA and the Water Environment Research Foundation representatives have already began discussions to restructure current guidelines.
Rousse is positive about the progress and steps taken in order to minimize the wipes issue. He states, “there is strong collaboration between my association and the major wastewater associations — NACWA, WEF, the American Public Works Association, and the Canadian Water and Wastewater Association… We are working collaboratively with them, sharing data and information, and discussing the true essence of the problems. I think we both better understand and appreciate the challenges each side has. ”