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Planning and Economic Development

Contact: Dan Heaton

Phone: 586-201-5732

Email: Dan.Heaton@macombgov.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 20, 2020

Federal Legislation Needed on Wipes Issue

 

Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice S. Miller is calling on federal lawmakers to pass new legislation that would require a change in labeling and marketing of so-called “flushable wipes.” The move follows a lawsuit Miller’s office filed earlier this month, seeking to compel manufacturers of the wipes to take the same action.

Miller’s office has been leading a public education campaign, Wipes Clog Pipes, seeking to prevent wipes from being flushed down toilets and ultimately ending up in municipal sewer systems, where they wreak havoc upon pumps and related systems.

“We are looking at all possible options to solve what is really an international problem. Nobody is saying don’t use these wipes. The issue is that when they get flushed, they don’t biodegrade. We need to get it clear on the packaging – don’t flush them down. We would like that to be reflected on the product labels – these products are disposable but are not flushable,” Miller said. “Most people want to do the right thing, so we need to have it in language on the label that is direct and easy to understand.”

This week, Miller sent letters to U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, and U.S. Reps. Paul Mitchell and Andy Levin, requesting that they introduce legislation in Congress.

As one example of the problems these wipes cause, during the Covid-19 pandemic, MCPWO has been removing upwards of 4,000 pounds of wipes from the Clintondale Pump Station in Clinton Township – which only serves parts of 4 communities -- on a weekly basis. The amount of wipes being removed during the pandemic represents a more than 330 percent increase from prior to the pandemic.

“That’s just at one pump station. I have to believe these staggering numbers are only being repeated across the country,” Miller said.

Once in the sewer system, the wipes cause increasing large problems as they move from household plumbing to local municipal systems to the MCPWO’s larger sewer interceptors. In 2018, Miller’s department removed a 19-ton mass of wipes and accumulated grease that attached to the wipes from a sewer system in what became known as the Macomb County Fatberg. In 2019, Macomb County Public Works removed a 1-ton mass of wipes, dubbed the Ragball – this time just thousands of wipes that knotted up together -- from another section of sewer in the county. Together, the two incidents costs MCPWO about $100,000 to remove.

“These problems are seen across the country, and even in other countries around the world. That’s why I believe some type of federal legislation is the best answer,” Miller said.

Miller, a former member of Congress, noted that while she served in Congress, she was a leader on passing legislation that removed phosphorus from residential fertilizers and removed plastic micro-beads from many cleaning products. Both measures were primarily aimed at keeping those products from ultimately ending up in local waterways.

“In those instances, federal legislation was the right answer. To me, this is clearly another case where Congress can take action and make a positive difference at the local level,” she said.

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21777 Dunham Road, Clinton Township, MI, 48036

http://publicworks.macombgov.org/