Fight over 'flushable' wipes D.C. says are clogging sewer systems heads to federal court
The question of whether flushable wipes — used by potty-training toddlers and people looking beyond traditional toilet paper — are clogging sewer systems will be hashed out in federal court, where a manufacturer has sued the District of Columbia over a new city law regulating when such wipes can be labeled "flushable."
Dallas-based Kimberly-Clark, which manufactures Cottonelle, Scott Naturals and Pull-Ups flushable wipes, alleges that the District law — the first of its kind in the U.S. — is unconstitutional because it tries to regulate businesses beyond the city. The company also alleges that the law violates the First Amendment because it could require companies that believe their wipes to be flushable to label their products as "do not flush."
"In seeking this court intervention, Kimberly-Clark is fighting for our consumers and standing up for our brands," company spokesman Bob Brand said in an email. "The District of Columbia has unfortunately passed a law that will severely restrict, if not eliminate, consumers' ability to purchase flushable wipes in Washington D.C."
The law, which takes effect Jan. 1, came in response to complaints from DC Water and sewer utilities nationwide that flushable wipes are jamming pumps, blocking screens and clogging equipment at sewage treatment plants. The problem costs U.S. utilities up to $1 billion annually, according to the National Association of Clean Water Agencies.
The issue drew international attention a few years ago, when a 15-ton glob of wipes and hardened cooking grease the size of a bus — and nicknamed "Fatberg" by the Brits — was discovered blocking a London sewer pipe.