A bill that could change New York City will be introduced this week, which could have consequences for every tax payer in the city — and their toilets.
Councilmen Donovan Richards (D-Queens) and Antonio Reynoso (D-Brooklyn) are seeking to change companies’ ability to advertise moist wipes as flushable, because they are becoming a serious and costly problem for the city.
“It’s false advertisement, and it’s costing taxpayers at the end of the day millions of dollars,” Councilman Richards told the New York Daily News. “People who buy wipes need to know that they can’t flush it down the toilet.”
Since moist wipes are not made from the same material as toilet paper, they do not dissolve in water the same way traditional toilet paper does. The wipes stay in their sheet form and begin to accumulate in screens at wastewater treatment plants, where they need to be removed manually. Additionally, the wipes can get caught in gears and pumps, causing jams.
By the numbers, these wipes have doubled the debris at these plants, to 110,000 cubic feet a month, which translates to a $3 million increase in tax dollars that are used to combat the problem.
“Whether or not the wipes get caught in the treatment plant depends on whether or not they have upgraded technology. If their screens are advanced, the wipe will naturally be removed from the screen,” said Michael Lein, CFO of TRIC Tools, Inc. “What normally ends up happening is there’s a snag or crack in the main line, causing the wipe to get caught and then later causing a blockage of other debris.”
Since the wipes are advertised as flushable, this intuitively makes New Yorkers think that they can safely flush the wipes with no problem. The councilmen think that preventing advertisers from using this language would help combat the problem. ABC affiliate WABC reports that under the bill, companies would face a $5,000 fine for advertising wipes as flushable.
Experts say that a sewer system can typically last around 40 years, but there are other factors like these, that could break down and damage a sewer system more quickly. There are over 104,000 plumbing and sewage companies in the U.S., which employ over 730,800 people.