Wipe Makers Facing Lawsuit Over Wastewater System Damage from “Flushable” Wipes

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Wipe Makers Facing Lawsuit Over Wastewater System Damage from “Flushable” Wipes
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Flushable wipes are a popular product in the United States, but have come under criticism from time to time regarding just how “flushable” they actually are. In a recent class action lawsuit filed by the Charleston Water System in South Carolina, the utility company alleged that these products marketed as flushable have been causing serious damage to the wastewater system. According to Charleston Water, flushing these wipes has resulted in the need for expensive and time-consuming repairs to sewer lines, including the use of heavy equipment and even human divers to remove clogs caused by wipes.

Not all flushable wipes are created equal.

Interestingly enough, when tests were conducted on the strength of some of the most popular “flushable” wipes on the market, the results showed that only one brand was truly safe to flush. While Costco, CVS, Kimberly-Clark Corporation, Procter & Gamble, Target, Walgreens and Wal-Mart wipes advertised as flushable were found to be of a strength allowing for serious system clogs, Cottonelle wipes were found to start breaking down immediately, greatly reducing the possibility of many wipes combining in the sewer system into a ball or rope causing malfunctions with the sewer pump.

While Kimberly-Clark is responsible for Cottonelle wipes among other products, the lawsuit still requests that the company agree to make sure their product meets the National Municipal Flushability Standard by May 2022.

The wipe-clogged water systems are thought to be connected to the pandemic.

It’s noted that when the pandemic first began in early 2020 and there was a nationwide run on toilet paper, many people turned to flushable wipes as an alternative. However, these habits likely continued, leading to clogged sewer systems across the country so bad that in some places, sewage has pushed back into homes and waterways.

This is not the first time a utility company has requested that people ignore the label reading “flushable” on a package of wipes, but is one of the first lawsuits instigated by a utility company against the manufacturers responsible for marketing the products. Disposable masks, gloves, and wipes meant for sanitization have also washed into the sewer during this time, exacerbating a problem that already existed. Mike Saia, a spokesperson for the Charleston Water System said that it costs the company approximately $250,000 a year to remove flushed wipes from the sewers and water treatment plants.

Most of the manufacturers filed a motion to dismiss the case.

Aside from Kimberly-Clark Corporation that according to ABC News agreed to a settlement plan with Charleston Water System, the other wipe manufacturers named in the lawsuit have reportedly filed a motion to have the case dismissed. If the case is dismissed, Charleston Water may choose to appeal the issue of the poorly marketed wipes with a higher court.

If the case moves forward, it’s probable that the wipe manufacturers in question will be required to change the way they advertise their products and compensate the utility company for the cost of unclogging the sewer system due to the problem created largely by their “flushable” wipes.

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