NACWA applauds WIPPES Act passage

The U.S. House of Representatives last week passed the Wastewater Infrastructure Pollution Prevention and Environmental Safety (WIPPES) Act, the result of a decade of advocacy by NACWA, the California Association of Sanitation Agencies, water sector partners, and manufacturers to improve labeling.

The legislation directs the Federal Trade Commission – with guidance from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – to issue regulations requiring wipes manufacturers to include clear, consumer-friendly “Do Not Flush” labeling on the packaging of wet wipes that are not designed to be flushed. 

“The damage from improperly flushed wet wipes and other non-flushable products have placed a costly burden on public wastewater utilities,” NACWA CEO Adam Krantz said. “Labeling these items is an important step in consumer education that will ultimately benefit utilities and their ratepayers by protecting critical wastewater infrastructure.”

Wipes have been a headache for the wastewater sector for years as they can cause sewer system and grinder pump clogging. Wipes — such as baby wipes and those used for cleaning — have historically been made of nonwoven fabrics. Although manufacturers have generally attempted to design them so they can be flushed, NACWA has told Water Finance & Management that no wipes are flushable because they do not break down in the same manner as, say, toilet paper. In recent years, NACWA has advocated for policies in support of “Do Not Flush” labeling.

In the report “The Cost of Wipes on America’s Clean Water Utilities,” NACWA estimates that wipes result in about $441 million a year in additional operating costs at U.S. clean water utilities. 

NACWA said it appreciates the lead sponsors of the legislation, Rep. Lisa McClain (R-Mich.) and Rep. Alan S. Lowenthal (D-Calif.).

Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) are the lead sponsors of similar legislation in the Senate, and NACWA said it looks forward to working for quick passage of the bill in the Senate.

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