New York City’s aging sewer system has long suffered because of carelessly flushed paper towels, condoms, sanitary products, and more, but city officials are struggling to cope with the latest scourge to the city’s delicate sewage system.
In the last five years alone, “flushable” sanitary wipes have cost the city more than $18 million in repair costs. Although companies like Proctor and Gamble, Charmin, Cottonelle, and Nice-Pak, which makes wipes for big-box stores like Target and Costco, advertise flush-safe wipes, cities and homeowners across the country are involved in a class action lawsuit against the companies that make these products.
While the label might say these wipes are safe for flushing, in reality they end up clogging up filters, pipes, and pumps at public water treatment plants. They can also cause major damage to residential sewer lines as well, especially in areas with a high volume of tree roots in the ground. Homeowners who have been using flushable wipes and experiencing clogs or other common plumbing problems may need a sewer video inspection, which usually ranges in price from $250-$350.
According to Marvin Gross of Village Plumbing and Heating in Queens Village, these products “end up in the sewer trap in the basement…They build up in a block: Just like clogging an artery.”
This year, after millions in damage, the New York City Council decided to take action against the companies selling these products in the city limits. City Councilman Antonio Reynoso introduced a bill to ban “flushable” wipes from being sold or even advertised in New York City.
While the bill might seem like a no-brainer to taxpayers who are on the hook for expensive repairs in their home or at the public water treatment plants they depend on, the manufacturers have lobbied hard against the legislation.
The industry association that represents the manufacturers tried to pin the blame on other common household products, like paper towels and baby wipes.
However, that line of argument might be a tough sell now that the Federal Trade Commission has ruled against one such company. In November, the FTC issued a consent order against Nice-Pak that prohibits them from advertising products as sewer-safe in the future.
For now, the bill — and a separate class action lawsuit — are pending.