WHAT HAPPENS AFTER FLUSHING THE TOILET IN NEW YORK? November 12, 2017 15:29
People go about their business without even thinking about what happens after flushing the toilet in New York despite all the work and machinery that is going on behind the scenes to manage the 24/7 production of human excrement.
When you think about it, it is truly incredible how a city like New York manages all the toilet waste produced by its citizens and visitors.
This post will help you understand what happens after you flush the toilet in New York. It is based on an interview with the deputy commissioner for the Bureau of Wastewater Treatment at the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), who oversees the treatment of more than a billion gallons of wastewater per day.
The interview was originally posted on cityandstateny.com.
Did you know that:
- The methane gas produced from treating human toilet waste along with some added food waste is used as a source of energy? Yup, the gas is actually put into pipelines going out to people's homes and used for cooking dinner.
- There was a recent wastewater spill into the Niagra River that was apparently due to ongoing problems with aging waste treatment infrastructure?
- The biggest challenge in treating wastewater? Hint: it's a challenge that Fanny Clean takes care of very nicely 😊
- There are workers who have to get inside the pumping machines to retrieve wipes and other stuff people flush down the toilet or else sewage would back up into people's homes and/or overflow into sources of clean water?
- New York City has 14 treatment plants with each borough having at least one wastewater treatment plant treating a total of about 1.3 billion gallons a day of wastewater on a typical day?
- If you lose a wedding ring down the drain, it’ll probably end up in the grit chamber?
So, what happens after you flush the toilet in New York?
Here's the interview:
C&S: As deputy commissioner (DC) for the Bureau of Wastewater Treatment, what are your daily job duties?
DC: Considering that we’re a 24/7 operation where we cannot stop what we do – which is treating all the wastewater from the millions and millions of people who live, work and play in New York City – it’s about making sure our operations are running smoothly, making sure they have the resources to get their work done, planning for near-term capital investments and long-term capital investments.
Maintaining staff morale, visions for the future, setting goals for ourselves, creating a level of morale and pride in the work we do, applying strategy to our internal operations as well as going external to advocate for our needs in the context of the city and stakeholders.
C&S: Describe the partnership between the DEP and National Grid.
DC: Every treatment plant takes in all the wastewater comes through us, and we essentially make the water clean and take the solids – which are organic solids – and put it in what are called digesters.
In those digesters, we use anaerobic bacteria to break down that waste and we create methane gas, (carbon dioxide) and water.
The methane gas is a very important energy resource that we try to utilize at each of our treatment plants.
At Newtown Creek, we actually have excess digester capacity, meaning for all the solids we put in the digesters from our process, we don’t use 100 percent of the space that we have in there.
So, National Grid and Waste Management work with us to create a food waste to digesters program, where Waste Management collects food waste and they create a slurry and that goes directly into our digesters. With that we’re creating more gas, about 10 percent more than we would otherwise.
So, considering that we don’t necessarily use all our gas and we’re getting this extra gas, National Grid came along. We created a program where they’re going to build a scrubber, which is basically a method to clean the gas and strip out the water and other impurities from the gas.
Then they’re going to put that gas directly into their regional pipeline, which then will be going to people’s homes so they can cook their dinner, and then use their toilets, and then put the waste in our system.
Then we’ll create more gas from that and then it’s a full circle.
C&S: The state is investigating a recent spill of wastewater into the Niagara River. How do you prevent a similar crisis from occurring in New York City?
DC: I have 1,800 people in this bureau, and every single day they are putting out fires that could potentially cause a problem.
We’ve got a lot of aging infrastructure, some of which is really challenged to keep operating.
So, we avoid that by dealing with things that need to be adjusted or replaced or (have an) emergency contract to fix in the short term, but in the long term we avoid that by making the right kind of investments in our utilities so that we replace this aging infrastructure before anything bad happens.
C&S: What is a challenge that you face in treating wastewater?
DC: The problem we have is people do flush a lot of things that shouldn’t be in the toilet.
Even if it says “flushable” on the box, if it's not toilet paper, it should not be flushed.
So what happens is all those baby wipes, and facial wipes, and Clorox bleach wipes and whatever makeup stuff that people flush – tampons, condoms, everything – it comes to the plant. We have to screen out that debris before we put it into the treatment plant.
We do our best to screen it out, and we spend over $7 million a year hauling off just stuff that gets stuck in our screen.
Even with the screens, a lot of (those) rags, and baby wipes, and facial stuff gets through the screens and ends up clogging pipes. When it clogs pipes it’s really bad, but you got raw sewage that can’t flow and you have to have people in there getting inside the pumping mechanism to retrieve the wipes and all the garbage people throw in there.
If I didn’t have the staff or the expertise or the people that stay on top of it, we’d be backing up sewage into people’s homes all the time or overflowing sewage into the receiving waters so it’s something that we constantly have to put up with.
I think we need to develop a stronger partnership just with everyday people so they know what not to put in their toilet. The more people understand that, the less they have to pay for it on our end, and the less risk that we have to put our utility under.
C&S: What is the daily capacity for New York City’s wastewater treatment plants?
DC: New York City has 14 treatment plants. Every borough has at least one.
We treat about 1.3 billion gallons a day of wastewater, and that’s on a dry day. Because a lot of our systems are combined, meaning they also take stormwater from the streets, that flow can easily be over 3 billion gallons in a given day.
C&S: What is the process for wastewater treatment?
DC: It comes to the treatment plant, it’s wastewater, which is obviously the organic loading coming from people.
The first stop is to take out the rags and the wipes and all that stuff, and that’s the big screens that screen that out.
Then it goes to a grit chamber usually, so stuff that will make it through the screen like small rocks or debris. If you lose a wedding ring, it’ll probably end up in the grit chamber.
Then it goes into these very large, long sedimentation basins, which is just a long channel where it’ll take the solids and it’ll fall out of the top, and the grease will float at the top. So we take out the floaters and the sinkers, and that goes to solids handling. This water that’s got very high organics in it, and then that goes through a biological process that is aerated.
What we do is we use biology. We set up conditions to bring a biological community to these treatment plants that actually consume the organic matter. If you think about it this way, if a bear poops in the woods, their poop will eventually become soil because all this bacteria that lives in the environment will degrade that waste.
So we’re taking something that takes weeks in the natural environment, and make it happen within a few hours within the treatment plant.
Then we have the final settling tank where we settle the biological flock out, and then the water is very clean at that point. It gets disinfected just using a household bleach type, and then the clean water is discharged into the receiving water.
But that whole thing about the biology and the solids that we pull off – we take a small portion of the active biological community, it’s called sludge, and we put that into the digesters. We’ve still got a lot of organics in there that breaks down in an anaerobic environment and that’s where we create the methane gas.
So we’re really a resource recovery utility. We’re taking waste and making clean water. We’re making usable biogas. We can take that biogas to heat. We can take that biogas to create electricity. We also produce the biosolids, which is the final product that is safe out of those digesters, so that’s another component that can be used for a beneficial use.
Should you use the Squatty Potty Bidet? July 16, 2017 11:58
Should you use the Squatty Potty Bidet or another bathroom wet wipe alternative such as so-called the "flushable" wipes that are often not so flushable despite what wet wipe marketers tell you to sell you?
First off, just say no to "wipes," we have posted extensively about the lawsuits and false-claims regarding the "flushability" of bathroom wet wipes here at the www.PoliteIsSexy.com blog as well as at our Google + Page.
Nevertheless, we know readers of this post appreciate good bathroom personal care and know the use of wet wipes has become increasingly common in recent years for cleaning one's tush after using the bathroom.
This is not all that surprising, when you get your hands dirty you would not just wipe them with a dry paper towel. You would wet or at least moisten the paper towel to better wipe your hand clean, right?
What took the U.S. so long to use moisture when wiping their fannies? Kinda weird when you think about it. In addition to clogging pipes, wastewater treatment plants and wreaking havoc on the environment, wet wipes also have ingredients that are not all that favorable for your tush.
Oh, and in case you do not know, we have posted about the proper way to wipe one's bottom 😊
Squatty Potty Bidet Wet Wipe Alternative
Some people believe using a bidet is a good "flushable" wipe alternative. While bidets have been used in Europe, for like, forever, most Americans do not find spraying their anus with water to be an appealing alternative to a bathroom wet wipe.
The Squatty Potty Bidet also uses a spray of water to clean remaining feces from your fanny.
Let me ask you a question, who wants to clean their butt like they wash their car?
And for heavens sake, do not regularly use soap and water while washing with a bidet. Soap can be harsh on the sensitive skin of your fanny.
So what is one to do? As alluded to above, the "flushable wipe" has its problems in that many of these products really are not flushable - Just because something goes down the drain when you flush, does not mean it is "flushable" since it does not break apart quickly enough after it is flushed to make it safe for sewers, septic systems, wastewater treatment facilities and the environment.
Consumer Reports performed a test on wet wipes showing how they do not break apart like toilet paper:
Fanny Clean Toilet Paper Moistener is a great alternative to bathroom wet wipes and to using the Squatty Potty Bidet. 😊
Use Fanny Clean and you can use your toilet paper like you are accustomed, and by applying an effective toilet paper moistener, you have a moist wipe for that fresh, confident clean you know and love.
Not to mention the improved "skin care down there" provided by Fanny Clean's organic-based formula.
For those of you who are not convinced, you can see the Squatty Potty Bidet. It is called "Refresh-It" and it may be purchased on Amazon.
For those of you who are ready for a personal wet wipe alternative that does not involve spraying your butt off with water, and is portable, go ahead and purchase Fanny Clean.
UFC Fighter Poops During Match | Fanny Clean July 09, 2017 19:31
After UFC fighter poops during a match, Dude Wipes forgets she's not a dude.
We are sure many readers saw the article by Adam K. Raymond, June 30, 2017 entitled:
"UFC Fighter who pooped in octagon now seriously considering butt wipes sponsorship."
If you have not seen it, before we make a few comments, go ahead and read it below:
Justine Kish should have shit her pants a long time ago.
Last weekend, the UFC strawweight went viral after she let loose on the mat during a losing match with Felice Herrig. At the time, we predicted it would be the greatest thing to ever happen to her career. Looks like we were on to something.
The latest evidence is a sponsorship offer from butt wipe manufacturer Dude Wipes.
Kish went on on iHeart radio’s “Domenick Nati Show" this week and revealed that she's gotten a ton of attention for crapping herself, including interest from some adult wipe companies. She said she's thinking about signing on endorse the product.
“I’m actually considering it because we could have some fun with it and maybe make the product less embarrassing and more funny,” Kish said.
Dude Wipes actually sponsored fighters in the past by plastering its name on their asses. Apparently the UFC won't allow that any more, but the brand is still interested in getting involved with Kish.
“We think Justine had an awesome attitude about the situation and are discussing a fun way to work together to make light of it. Dude Wipes weren't the only ones impressed with Kish's light-hearted response to what was surely a mortifying moment. As she said this week, she got a call from Dana White after the fight.
His message? "You fought like hell out there and I love how you owned up to it," Kish told MMAWeekly.com. Not a bad pat on the back for someone who suffered a shitty loss.
Good for Justine, she's a winner as far as we're concerned. A competitive female who, we suspect, is one heck of a badass. Nevertheless, she is a woman, not a dude.
She was very good natured about the whole incident and I'm sure Dude Wipes approaching her for a sponsorship was taken in stride and in good humor, but why would she use Dude Wipes? Justine is not a dude.
Not to mention the potential pipe-clogging and environmental problems with bathroom wet wipes, including Dude Wipes.
Fanny Clean is THE 100% flushable butt wipe product for Justine, not only for great hygiene but also for better skin care "down there."
Congress Should Not Overturn D.C. ‘Flushable’ Law July 08, 2017 12:54
A recent editorial, dated July 5, 2017 by the Current News staff writer entitled, "Congress Shouldn't Wipe Out D.C. ‘Flushable’ Law" addresses the power of the bathroom wet wipe lobby. We here at Etiquette agree with this writer's perspective and we have added some additional editorial content of our own (in bold italics below).
In addition, we published a post enttiled, "False Marketing And Washington DC Wet Wipe Sewer Problems" earlier this year.
It’s bad enough when a member of Congress tries to meddle in the District’s local governance to advance an ideological agenda.
Now, we face the prospect of an even more dispiriting form of congressional interference. This time, Congress would be responding to direct pressure from an industry dominated by multinational corporations. At issue: the marketing claims of wet wipes.
This form of "congressional interference" is not new, corporations have allocated portions of their hefty budgets to lobby members of congress to push their agenda for, like, forever. The wet wipe lobby is well-funded and therefore, quite "persuasive;" They are well armed in their effort to overturn the D.C. flushable law.
Last year, the D.C. Council passed a law that explicitly defines “flushable” products as dissolving in water, and banning noncompliant wipes from using the term. The D.C. Water and Sewer Authority blames these wipes for clogging pipes and filtration equipment, even though the flushable label gives confidence even to conscientious residents that they’re doing no harm.
Makes sense to us. Just because an item goes down the drain when the toilet is flushed does not mean it is "flushable." Everyone knows what the term "flushable" implies. Why should a product be able to use the word "flushable" when the product results in harm because it does not break apart after it goes down the drain? This question is at the heart of the D.C. flushable law.
The Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry argues that concerns are overstated and their products cause little harm, but we’re more inclined to trust DC Water on that point. We also read with amusement that Ward 3 Council member Mary Cheh dispatched an industry lobbyist last year by leaving a “flushable” wipe to soak in water overnight — and seeing no deterioration. “He even poked it around with his pen,” she told The Washington Post. “I never heard from him again.”
Love it! Good for you, Mary Cheh.
Meanwhile, other critics worry that companies will simply stop selling their wipes in D.C. rather than creating special packaging without “flushable” promises. Still others say that government should stay out of the bathroom. But the alternative doesn’t seem appropriate: allowing companies to market their products as safe to flush if the claim is untrue. The law does not target users of the wipes, just the companies that sell them.
Of course government should "stay out of the bathroom." While this verbiage makes for a good slogan, to make such an argument in opposition to the D.C. flushable law is ridiculous. The government is not "in the bathroom." The government is following through on a fiduciary responsibilty to taxpayers who have to foot the bill for repairs to the wastewater treatment plant machinery and any environmental clean up from the damage caused by so-called "flushable wipes." As an illustrative example, consider if you have a septic system, and you want to flush wet wipes down your toilet. The government will not prevent you from doing so as long as you are footing the bill for any repairs to your septic system.
We recognize that the toilet-based topic of this dispute is almost comical, tailor-made for pithy punchlines. But the fact that Congress might bow to Kimberly-Clark and other industry giants to block the D.C. government from enacting local laws is no laughing matter. It’s an ugly example of an even more disgusting trend.
Congress is empowered to directly invalidate D.C. laws in various ways due to the District’s unique status, and members have repeatedly done so. But there is no basis for interfering with this local law — or any other that doesn’t affect the District’s ability to serve as the seat of government.
We hope that Congress rejects calls to meddle with the D.C. wipes law — or, at the very least, establishes nationwide rules rather than singling out the District. Furthermore, we hope that the ongoing efforts for D.C. statehood will someday put the District on equal footing with the 50 states, so our local laws won’t be uniquely controlled by out-of-state lawmakers.
We agree...If congress takes any action against the D.C. flushable law, it should be to use D.C.'s bold move as a catalyst to create nationwide regulations regarding the marketing of "flushable" products.
But why wait, when you can use Fanny Clean now! It is an effective, natural wet wipe alternative that is 100% flushable. Buy now and see for yourself. ;-)
Flushable Wipes Clogging Pipes | Detroit June 03, 2017 18:56
As most readers know, many towns and cities across the U.S. - and world for that matter - have a wet wipe problem on their hands; The same goes for Detroit where flushable wipes clogging pipes and pumps at wastewater treatment facilities are costing both taxpayers and the environment.
Using a wet wipe for best hygiene after a trip to the bathroom is understandable. We all want that fresh, confident clean, but the truth is, many wipes that are marketed as "flushable" do not break apart after being flushed.
When this occurs, you get flushable wipes clogging pipes and the Detroit area is no exception.
In Detroit, there are flushable wipes clogging pipes from "ragging."
Ragging occurs when the screens and pumps that are part of the equipment involved in wastewater and sewage processing become clogged-up with so-called flushable wipes that are not breaking apart like their manufacturers claim.
Just because an item can be physically flushed away and out of sight, does not mean that it is "flushable," right?
Flushed items also need to be biodegradable in a fairly short period of time. In other words, they need to break apart after being flushed - like toilet paper does - or else you get "flushable" wipes clogging pipes.
Flushable Wipes Clogging Pipes in Detroit
In the Detroit area city of Fraser, Michigan, a sinkhole developed in December 2016 resulting in the collapse of a sewer line. As a result a temporary sewer-bypass needed to be created and sewage had to be pumped up 60 feet and then pumped back down into the underground sewer line to make its way to the sewage treatment plant.
It has been reported that this sewer line collapse condemned three houses and prompted officials to urge more than 500,000 residents and tens of thousands of businesses to curb water use for months.
The ragging of wipes - that should NOT have been flushed down the toilet in the first place - caused a serious burden to the sewer-bypass such that pumps became burned out.
In order to prevent ongoing equipment damage, the screens had to be cleared of wipes and other debris every one to two hours instead of about every 18 hours on a non-rainy day.
In the case of the Fraser sewer-bypass, officials discussed whether they should install a cutter on the pump to try to prevent ragging costing taxpayers an additional $5-million for the repair project, from $70-million to $75-million.
Because ragging has become so serious, the Detroit Public Works Commissioner is planning a public education effort on the issue with public service announcements, direct discussions with municipalities and a flyer included in water and sewer bills.
The metro Detroit Public Works Commissioner, along with wastewater officials across the world, are urging people to only flush toilet paper, pee and poo, nothing else.
However, we believe a big part of the problem of flushable wipes clogging pipes in Detroit, and elsewhere, is that public works and wastewater treatment officials Do Not Offer a Viable Wet Wipe Alternative to People Who Use Bathroom Wet Wipes!
For example, the Detroit Public Works Commissioner was quoted as saying, "People have to understand the impact of this...If they can just throw it in the trash and not down the toilet."
Say what? She is asking people to keep the equivalent of a diaper pail in their bathrooms?
How many people are inclined to follow this advice?
Do you believe the Commissioner has a waste basket of used wet wipes next to her toilet?
To make matters worse, in the same article cited above, the Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner, Jim Nash agreed.
Does Mr. Nash have a trash can full of used wet wipes near his toilet?
Maybe Mr. Nash just uses plain ol' dry TP and foregoes the improved hygiene of a moist or wet wipe after Number 2?
Detroit Flushable Wipes Clogging Pipes - Videos
Public education videos have become an increasingly common means of informing the public about this issue.
The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department made a short video in 2014 discussing the flushable wipes problem and the damage these products can cause.
Unfortunately, the video does not offer an alternative to baby wipes for adults and advises users of these products to throw them in the trash can...Seriously?
Last year, Oakland County officials also made a more entertaing, two-minute public service announcement to educate people about not flushing wipes and other items down the toilet.
The Oakland County video is more entertaining, and it mentions "bathroom wipes" but does not offer an alternative to people who are wiping with flushing wipes after using the toilet...just the same old "Throw it in the garbage."
MSNBC has even put out a highly produced and informative 5 minute video discussing the problem of "flushable" wipes clogging pipes in New York City, but alas, once again, no wet wipe alternative. :-( We have also posted on the problems caused by wet wipes for adults in New York City.
Flushable Cipes Clogging Pipes Anonymously
In the anonymous and private environment of a bathroom, who is going to know if wipes are being flushed?
In this case, wet wipes are out of sight, out of mind. It is not like throwing garbage out a car window for the world to see.
Actually, it is hard to believe some of the items that have been flushed down the toilet because no one knows where it came from or who did it.
People need to understand AND CARE ABOUT what can occur when items other than TP, poo and pee are flushed.
We believe PEOPLE NEED A WET WIPE ALTERNATIVE!
Etiquette's *Fanny Clean* is an organic-based wet wipe alternative at the ready for great hygiene and skin care "down there."
False Marketing And Washington DC Wet Wipe Sewer Problems April 06, 2017 20:28
This post was inspired by recent legislation addressing Washington DC wet wipe sewer problems, more specifically a recent article in the Huffington Post that discussed DC's wet wipe law. There was nowhere to leave comments, so we decided to address the content of the Huff Post article here...
We have written about the efforts of New York City to help address that city's problems caused by bathroom wet wipes and the wet wipe lawsuits around the country. Well, now new flushable wipe legislation which regulates the sale of flushable wipes was passed by the Washington D.C. city council in an effort to address Washington DC wet wipe sewer problems. That legislation has been signed into law by Mayor Muriel Bowser . The recent Huff Post article referred to above is entitled, "Flushing Busybody Politicians."
In this article the author states,
"Showing that no issue is too small, regulators in the nation’s capital have prohibited labeling flushable wipes – a useful product loved by mothers of infants and messy toddlers to the elderly, and everyone in between – as “flushable”, effectively creating a ban on local sales for this nationally marketed consumer good."
This is not entirely accurate, it is the FALSE labeling of SO-CALLED flushable wipes as flushable that is at the heart of the Washington DC wet wipe sewer problems. As a matter of fact, there has been quite a bit of legal action against the false marketing of so-called flushable wipes throughout the USA. Here is an example of one such wet wipe lawsuit.
The Washington DC legislation does not ban the sale of all bathroom wet wipes.
The law is intended for wipes claiming to be flushable to actually pass testing confirming that the wipes are indeed flushable by readily breaking apart - and those wipes that do not pass the test by breaking apart quickly enough - must have a label that says "DO NOT FLUSH."
In other words, if the wipes do not break apart according to an established standard after being flushed, the manufacturer needs to tell their consumers that their wet wipe product should not be flushed.
Is this really too much to ask to mitigate Washington DC wet wipe sewer problems?
While some regulations can indeed bog-down the flow of life, some regulations serve as the "oil" that keeps society flowing as smoothly as possible. When wet wipes are clogging pipes, society also gets "clogged-up" along with this mess, and the costs to fix wastewater treatment plants, sewer and plumbing problems caused by wet wipes are passed on to the taxpayer.
Washington DC's wet wipe sewer problems, as well as wet wipe problems throughout the world, are not a small issue. A quick Internet search on the topic displays many articles about this problem. Check out Etiquette's Google Plus Page and you will see what we mean.
Many of the bathroom wipes people use to keep their fannies clean don't break apart as they pass through the sewer system. So, assuming they do not get clogged along the way, once they make it to the treatment plant, they often overwelm the system clogging the plant's screens, pumps and grinders.
The sewer systems and waste water treatment plants across the USA, and other parts of the world, are not designed to handle the amount of solid materials that come their way, including bathroom wet wipes that people use to wipe their fannies after a trip to the loo.
Sure, there are other household products such as grease, cleaning wipes and facial tissue that contribute to Washington DC wet wipe sewer problems, but these products are not marketed and sold as "flushable" - and perhaps more importantly - are not typically used while on the toilet with you know what on them.
When wipes have feces on them, and one is sitting on a toilet, it is only natural to want to flush them away, right?
To Flush or Not to Flush, That is the Controversial Question.
Just how contentious and controversial this issue surrounding Washington DC wet wipe sewer problems has become is reflected in point-counterpoint Washington Examiner editorials by a current and former manager of DC Water.
George H. is the current CEO and general manager of DC Water who is in favor of the wet wipe legislation against mislabeling of flushable wipes and Hiram T. is a former manager of sewer pumping for DC Water who believes the DC ban on flushable wipes should be flushed.
As George H. describes the problem,
"Many times, wipes clog residential plumbing pipes, get trapped with grease-forming fatbergs, wrap around our pumps causing them to fail, or get stuck in our screens causing maintenance problems and unnecessary repairs that our customers ultimately have to pay for on their sewer bills. These wipes must be removed by DC Water workers, placing them at increased risk of injury and illness."When looking into the role of wet wipes clogging pipes, one will soon see that bathroom wet wipe flushing advocates often point to a "scientific" study commissioned by New York City that found, "only 2 percent of the contents of Fatbergs came from flushable wipes, most of that barely identifiable." In his article suporting DC's wet wipe regulations, George H. notes that this two-percent number was determined,
"from a single collection study in New York City, using a very small sample of wipes taken at one time, right after a major storm had likely flushed out that city's combined sewer system. The study did not include the contents of any fatbergs. Other reputable studies actually show a higher percentage of flushable wipes in sewer systems."Interestingly, in his editorial response, Hiram T., who supports overturning D.C.'s regulation of flushable wipes, states that floods to the DC sewer system can,
"sweep through: entire car engines, animal carcasses, large slabs of concrete."
If this is the case, is it not safe to assume that storm water could have had an at least some "flushing effect" described by George H.? This "flushing effect" is clearly a confounding factor that must be taken into consideration when interpreting the "study."
George H. goes on to point out that,
"DC Water and more than 200 utilities worldwide signed onto a uniform and accurate definition for flushability. This definition is the basis of the city council's legislation regulating flushable wipes. While most wipes sold in the United States do not meet this standard, wipes that are actually flushable do exist, but only overseas. By passing this legislation, wipe manufacturers in the U.S. will be encouraged to keep up with technology and change their manufacturing processes to make wipes that actually meet their claim of being flushable if they want to be sold as such."
We have not independently verified that there are no truly flushable wipes in the USA that can honestly meet the current Federal Trade Commission test for wet wipe flushability.
Wet Wipes Containing Plastic Filaments
In recent decades, cleaning wipes infused with plastic filaments have come to market including some baby wipes with this composition.
All carry "Do Not Flush" warning labels. Nevertheless, people do flush these down toilets in which case they are also contributing to the Washington DC wet wipe sewer problems and wet wipe problems throughout the world.
In commenting on the law to address the Washington DC wet wipe sewer problems, the Huff Post article mentioned above states,
"The city council voted in December to prohibit the kinds of personal-cleaning wipes that are supposed to be flushable from being labeled as flushable. These wipes do not contain plastic and are designed to come apart in discharge pipes, much like toilet paper. Mayor Bowser signed the bill earlier this month. The practical result will be a ban on the local sale of a class of innovative products found in 20 percent of households nationally and used by nursing homes to care for elderly patients.
The problem is that, despite DC Water's communications, many of the banned products' users will be sure to turn to non-flushables and flush them anyway, aggravating the Fatberg problem.
I agree with the wastewater community that we need standards to assure that all wipe products are safe for our systems. But on Dec. 7th, the day after the city council vote, a Federal District Court in New York City ruled that the Federal Trade Commission had established an "acceptable national standard" for the product, making state and local standards "not acceptable."
The city council should provide a mechanism for the Department of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs and DC Water to approve these products without having to expend valuable and extremely scarce resources. Instead of burdening those agencies, it would be better to call for manufacturer self-certification backed by evidence that the product breaks apart in accordance with the FTC standard. The self-certification and data would be presented to the two agencies for approval."
Self-regulation is doomed to failure; there is simply too much money at stake.
In the past, the Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry which represents wet wipe manufacturers created their own standard. Unfortunately, that standard was not agreed upon by members of the wastewater industry and did not meet a real definition of "flushable."
Just because an item goes down the drain and out of sight when one flushes the toilet does not make it "flushable." On a national level, the wet wipe lobby is just too powerful for much positive regulatory movement regarding wet wipes - the Washington DC wet wipe sewer problems, wipe problems throughout the U.S. and problems worldwide.
Huff Post author,
"The city council is the first in the country to prohibit a promising innovation such as cleaning wipes. A wise city council would modify the law to avoid placing additional burdens on already thinly-stretched agencies while accommodating technological innovation. It’s a familiar, though entirely false, criticism. Those who oppose these convenient products suggest flushable wipes are contributing to the increasingly disgusting problem of citywide sewer blockages."
First of all, the use of the absolute, "entirely false" sets the author up for easy rebuttal.
Is it really "entirely" false? Does the author believe that that not one iota of the problem is due to so-called flushable wipes? The word "flushable" was not defined...How come?
"Yet, they overlook another, very similar product, that’s far more likely to be causing the problem—baby wipes and cleaning wipes, which are not flushable because they contain plastic filaments that do not break down in sewers. Flushable wipes do not contain plastic and are designed to disaggregate in sewer systems."
Yes , many cleaning wipes do contain plastic filaments, and, to some degree are likely contributing to the costs of municipalities' sewage treatment and Washington DC wet wipe sewer problems, but how many of these products are being used in the proximity of a toilet?
We can think of a toilet cleaning wipe being used to wipe off a toilet and being thrown in the toilet when one is done cleaning, but people generally have a waste basket in their bathroom for this purpose.
Most people do not have a waste basket in their bathroom to deposit used toilet paper.
We believe most people, especially with some education on this topic, will discard a toilet cleaning wipe in the waste basket since there is no feces on it. Once feces enters the picture, it is a different ballgame.
Likewise regarding another type of wipe that is commonly used in the bathroom, make up remover wipes.
The difference between Baby Wipes and Adult Wipes is not as significant as it once was; in many cases, both are marketed as "flushable." There was a time when adults were using "baby wipes" because that is all that was avilable for better hygiene until parents started asking themselves, "Hey, why is my kid's butt cleaner than mine?"
At that point, the market expanded to include adults and the word "Baby" was removed from many products to facilitate marketing to a larger demographic.
"Yet, sadly for DC residents, these flushable standards won’t be developed anytime soon. It’s common knowledge that city water authority staff is already stretched so thin that they simply won’t be able to take on these standard setting responsibilities. What’s even more galling is that the Federal Trade Commission has already established a national standard for flushable wipes, making these DC-specific standards unnecessary. While sewage problems are indeed a worthy cause for city officials’ attention, it’s important to not throw the baby products out with the bathwater. In a recent sewage test in New York City, only two percent of the sewage blockage residue came from flushable wipes while a full 33 percent was made up of the plastic filament contained in non-flushable baby wipes."
Evidently, in the opinion of the DC legislature, the FTC standard is not sufficient for protecting consumers and for preventing Washington DC wet wipe sewer problems.
Along with the Federal Trade Commission, politicians are tasked with ensuring that products are not sold to consumers using false advertising.
As noted above many writers cite the New York City wet wipe "study" - At least the Huff Post author did not claim it was "scientific" as others have done.
People are inclined to use less discretion for the public good in the privacy of their own bathrooms. In other words, when no one is looking, they flush away thinking, "it's only a couple of wipes; what harm can that do?"
Yes, There Are Wet Wipe Alternatives!Huff Post,
"Politicians would also do well to remember why certain products are developed in the first place: in response to genuine consumer interest. "The problem with this bill is that it's going to effectively ban the flushable wipes," David Rousse, president of the Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry, said in an interview. "The only thing people are going to have left to buy to perform their personal hygiene are baby wipes, and baby wipes are the worst kind for flushing."
The consumer is not interested in bathroom wet wipes, per se.
The consumer is interested in good bathroom hygiene and personal care, i.e, a clean fanny.
It is also not true that without standard wet wipes, the only alternative is baby wipes!
There are options other than wet wipes clogging pipes. You have to go no further than this website to learn what that is ;-)
"Flushable wipes are popular with mothers of young children and with those who care for the elderly. The unintended consequences of this measure should also be considered. This ban will result in the greater use of non-flushable wipes, like baby wipes and chlorine-based cleaning wipes (which are not banned). In fact, it’s likely people will start flushing more of these wipes instead of the flushable alternative, which will only exacerbate the problems with the city’s sewers."
This is a valid point, the Law of Unintended Consequences is a concern, however I wonder if the argument is based on a false premise - What is banned is the false labeling of bathroom bum wet wipes as flushable when in fact they do not sufficiently break apart to be marketed as flushable.
Certainly consumers, and the municipalities in which they live deserve to be protected from false advertising.
In addition, the quote that "Baby Wipes" are non-flushable wipes is inaccurate. There are many manufacturers of "flushable baby wipes" that are held to the same flushability standard as adult wet wipe manufacturers.
Regarding "Chlorine Wipes," while not impossible, it is unlikely that consumers will begin to use various disinfecting wipes and cleaning wipes for counter tops and other inanimate objects on their fannies. If they do, it probably will not be done for long, once they experience the potential skin issues that could occur.
"Naturally, environmentalists are on the wrong side of this issue, applauding the ban when they should be vocally opposed to the waste that this ban will create. Flushable wipes are biodegradable and cut down on the water usage related to using non-disposable washcloths in place of flushable wipes. Where are the environmentalists on water waste and the needed infrastructure repairs that will inevitably result from this ban?"
Here, speaking in the context of environmentalists, the author shifts from writing about the increased plumbing and wastewater management problems that may occur due to the Law of Unintended Consequences from the flushing of non-flushable wipes to the concept of "waste."
The use of non-disposable washcloths is not a common practice with most bathroom users. Washcloths are most commonly used when caring for the very young and the very old. In these cases, the users of those washcloths have a real mess on their hands literally) and a wet washcloth is a better alternative for the job at hand regardless of the need for some water. Disagree? Go volunteer at a nursing home or baby nursery; you will understand.
"Politicians see nothing wrong with stepping in to fix a problem that doesn’t exist and creating a solution that will result in substantial and unintended human costs, while making society’s problem far worse."
To say a problem does not exist is disingenuine. Far worse?
Here at Etiquette, we have a "solution" to Washington DC wet wipe sewer problems - An organic-based hygiene solution that also provides for great skin care "down there." :-)