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Local water district hopes 'do not flush' legislation doesn’t go down the drain

"Flushable" wipes clog pipes at the Snyderville Basin Water Reclamation District. The clogs can cause sewer backups.
Snyderville Basin Water Reclamation District
"Flushable" wipes clog pipes at the Snyderville Basin Water Reclamation District. The clogs can cause sewer backups.

Local water district officials are hopeful new federal legislation regulating non-flushable wipes will soon become law. It floated through the U.S. House and now sits with the Senate.

Wastewater treatment plants across the country have had problems with “flushable” wipes backing up and breaking systems. The Wastewater Infrastructure Pollution Prevention and Environmental Safety Act was introduced to protect water systems and requires wipe products to include a “do not flush” label.

The House passed legislation Tuesday requiring the words “do not flush” to be printed on all wipe containers. Now the bill awaits Senate approval.

Snyderville Basin Water Reclamation District Director Mike Luers said he’s happy to see regulations. He said district plants have had big problems with so-called “flushable” wipes. Baby and body wipes can technically be flushed down the toilet, but he said they don’t break down like toilet paper and can’t be treated at plants.

“They wrap around our pumps, they shut our system down, and cause tremendous problems and result in sewage backing up into homes and businesses,” Luers said. “We have this big screen where the wastewater comes in the plant and we remove entire whole body wipes by the hundreds every day.”

Luers said the wipes have been stopping up systems for the last 10 years and passing legislation has been difficult.

“Big wipe manufacturers, Procter and Gamble and others, really had a tremendous business, and they felt like they might have lower sales if you could not flush them,” Luers said. “We basically had to spend a lot of time on Capitol Hill, our industry, to really fight for this.”

The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration and Leurs said he hopes it will pass.