SALEM, Ore. — Oregon will become the second state in the US to require that disposable wipes be labeled with "Do Not Flush," a triumph for water district officials and local governments in the state.
While many wipes are marketed as "flushable" these days, the people that deal with the end result say that these products have been wreaking havoc on sewer and wastewater systems throughout the state of Oregon.
“The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated an already growing problem caused by a glut of products marketed as flushable, when in fact they were clogging and damaging residential and community pipes,” said Susie Smith, director of the Oregon Association of Clean Water Agencies. “We are grateful to the cities, agencies and legislators who championed this common-sense requirement.”
House Bill 2344 was championed by Smith's group, the League of Oregon Cities, and the Special Districts Association of Oregon. Together, they asked that a bill be introduced due to the ongoing challenges and rising costs associated with wipes and related products that are flushed down the toilet — resulting in sewer backups, overflows, damage to pumps and wastewater equipment.
The bill requires that manufacturers of baby wipes, make-up wipes, cleaning wipes, and other personal care wipes follow a statewide standard and clearly label these products to indicate that they should not be flushed down toilets.
Washington enacted a similar requirement in 2020, and advocates said that legislation is pending in California, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, and Minnesota. A federal environmental proposal also contains a provision on the topic.
In a 2020 report, the National Association of Clean Water Agencies estimated that wipes result in $440 million per year in additional operational costs for wastewater utilities.