Rules and Regs: Wipes Manufacturer Will No Longer Claim Its Product Safe for Onsite Systems

In this month's regulations update, a bill requiring cesspool replacement at the sale of property is up for a vote in Rhode Island, and a national wipes manufacturer ends its claim of flushability
Rules and Regs: Wipes Manufacturer Will No Longer Claim Its Product Safe for Onsite Systems

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A manufacturer of wet wipes has agreed to stop promoting its product as being flushable and will no longer claim they are safe for sewers and septic tanks until it can substantiate the claims. The proposed settlement with Nice-Pak Products Inc. was announced on May 18 by the Federal Trade Commission and became final on June 19 after a public comment period.

Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, stated in a news release, “The evidence didn’t back up Nice-Pak’s claims that their wipes were safe to flush. If you claim a product is flushable, it needs to flush in the real world, without clogging household plumbing or sewer and septic systems.” The company’s testing did not reflect real conditions, the agency alleged.

The FTC complaint contended that the company had violated the law by claiming that the wipes:

  • Are safe for sewer systems
  • Are safe for septic systems
  • Break apart shortly after being flushed
  • Are safe to flush

The company released a statement saying the products in question had been discontinued in 2014 and maintained that their claims were “fully substantiated.” Nice-Pak produced the wipes for private labels marketed by Costco, CVS and Target.

The company is also named in a class-action lawsuit brought by the City of Wyoming, Minnesota, against six manufacturers of flushable wipes that alleges manufacturers knowingly marketed and distributed wipes as flushable, when in reality the wipes can cause severe problems to private wastewater drainpipes, municipal sewer systems and wastewater treatment plants.

Cesspool replacement bill being revisited in Rhode Island

A Rhode Island Senate committee has approved a cesspool bill that was pulled from a scheduled vote at the end of the legislative session last year. If passed, the law would require the replacement of all cesspools with approved septic systems or sewer connections when a property is sold or ownership changes. Waivers would be available for low-income property owners.

That state banned new cesspools in 1968, but 25,000 of them are still in use. The cesspool act of 2007 required replacement of those within 200 feet of tidal waters, public wells and waters used for drinking supply intakes by Jan. 1, 2014.

New Mexico county cracking down on pumper certification

Only three of the 22 septic pumping companies in San Juan County have the required certification from the state of New Mexico but the uncertified can now expect increased attention. Statewide enforcement of the 2011 law has been lax, according to the Environment Department, because it has no staff for enforcing the regulations. But it will cooperate with local officials and groups in San Juan County to increase compliance.

For pumpers not registered by June 15, the Environment Department will issue $100 citations (per violation) that are called for in state law. The agency says its goal is to achieve compliance, not put the uncertified companies out of business.

Pumpers do not have to be certified to use the only wastewater treatment plant that accepts septage in the county. While requiring it has been suggested as one alternative, doing so could create a more serious problem of illegal dumping in the county and on Navajo Nation lands. One uncertified company dumped thousands of gallons of septage on federal lands in the county in 2013. One local pumper, who is properly certified, told the Daily Times newspaper that he sees signs of illegal disposal at least once a month. 

Pennsylvania court reviewing lawsuit against EPA ruling

The U.S. District Court for eastern Pennsylvania is reviewing the March dismissal of a lawsuit challenging a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ruling that septic systems in the state do not require EPA review as long as they comply with state law. Several environmental groups have challenged the ruling saying the state’s septic system law violates its anti-degradation policy and that the EPA should have reviewed and disapproved of the July 2014 law. Two construction industry groups have joined the case as interveners. The National Association of Home Builders and the Pennsylvania Builders Association have taken the EPA’s side in the case, claiming that the court ruling is correct and that the Clean Water Act does not require an EPA review of state statutes.

Food stands may receive septic system loophole in North Carolina

Legislation in North Carolina would allow food stands to offer tables and chairs without having to worry about being classified as a restaurant. Sen. Jerry Tillman (R-Archdale) introduced the bill after visiting a country store where senior citizens have to stand as they socialize over biscuits warmed in a microwave oven. According to the News & Observer newspaper, state health rules forbid food stands from providing seating to make sure businesses have adequate septic systems to serve customers. The Division of Public Health says it does not oppose the measure, which would apply to permanent businesses but not food trucks.


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