Improper Use of ‘Flushable Wipes’ Costs Canadians $250 Million Annually

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The Municipal Enforcement Sewer Use Group, composed of 29 communities in Ontario, estimates that flushable wipes cost Canadian utilities $250 million per year in cleanup costs. It has been working with the International Standards Organization to develop standards for the word “flushable,” and Canada’s Competition Bureau is investigating companies for possible violations of consumer packaging laws and false and misleading labeling. While there are more than a dozen lawsuits in the U.S., Canadian utilities are so far depending on advertising in order to get consumers to stop flushing the wipes. According to Alaska Highway News, Metro Vancouver has a humorous $200,000 “Adult Toilet Training” campaign telling its 2.5 million users that it’s not OK to flush the wipes or anything besides “pee, poo and toilet paper.” The Vancouver utility spent $100,000 last year to unclog flushable wipes from pumps.


Nearly $2 million is being used across three watersheds in Minnesota to upgrade onsite wastewater systems. The Clean Water Partnership loan program recently announced the $1.9 million in low-interest loans and says it still has $9 million in funds available for local units of government that want to “target the restoration and protection of a water resource such as a lake, stream or groundwater aquifer.”

The Snake River Watershed Management Board received a $400,000 loan to upgrade 27 to 33 systems that will prevent 136 pounds of phosphorus and 574 pounds of nitrogen from entering the groundwater. The Hawk Creek Watershed Project received $1.05 million for 75 upgrades that will reduce 240 pounds of phosphorus, 5,300 pounds of total suspended solids, and 600 pounds of nitrogen a year. In the Heron Lake Watershed District $450,000 in funding will be used to upgrade 30 systems, resulting in an estimated annual reduction of 304 pounds of phosphorus, 3.2 tons of sediment, and 807 pounds of nitrogen.


A Delaware legislative task force is recommending a personal income tax increase and business license fee hike to fund restoration of polluted creeks, streams, rivers and bays. A similar plan proposed by Democrat Gov. Jack Markell in 2014 was defeated by lawmakers. The new proposal would charge individuals $40 a year, up to $80 per household on their income tax, and increase business license fees from $75 a year to $120. Reports indicate 94 percent of the state’s rivers and streams have such poor water quality that fish can’t thrive, and 85 percent are too polluted for swimming.


The Tisbury Board of Health is dropping a plan to tax new homes for their contribution of nitrogen to area bodies of water based on water use and the type of onsite wastewater system. Instead, it is considering a requirement for denitrifying septic systems in all new construction or system replacements. Under the original proposal, newly built homes would be charged a semiannual fee based on the amount of wastewater produced and the type of treatment system. The annual cost for a three-bedroom home would have ranged from $320 to $3,200 depending on the wastewater system installed. The nitrogen tax plan was heavily criticized during a series of public hearings in June.


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued fines for illegal large-capacity cesspools in Hawaii, which recently became the last state to ban all new cesspools. Large-capacity cesspools, those that serve 20 or more people a day, have been banned since 2005 in the state. Hawaii County was fined $105,000 for allowing illegal cesspools at a drag strip and a shooting range. Maui County was fined $33,000 for those at a racetrack, and the state Department of Land and Natural Resources will pay $50,000 for using them at a state park. Earlier this year, the EPA fined the U.S. Army $100,000 for large-capacity cesspools at three military facilities in Hawaii.


The family of a 73-year-old woman who died when she fell into an abandoned septic system tank is suing the Metropolitan Sewer District of Louisville and a contractor, and is planning a class action lawsuit. The suit alleges that when the district connected all homes in an area to the sewer system in the 1990s, it was negligent in not backfilling tanks and in the oversight of its contractor, who has since gone out of business.

New York

Suffolk County has selected 20 winners in its lottery for new septic systems. It’s the second year of the contest designed to help improve the area’s water quality by reducing nitrogen from onsite systems. In the two years, 330 people have entered and 39 have won free systems, which includes installation along with monitoring and maintenance for five years. The systems, valued at up to $20,000 each, were donated by six manufacturers in the U.S. and Canada.


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