City officials across Minnesota have complained for years about so-called "flushable" sanitary wipes, which can end up clogging wastewater treatment systems and leading to costly repairs.
Now, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is stepping in to push for a ban on labeling such wipes as "septic safe." The agency's proposal also would require packaging to include a "do not flush" warning, so consumers know the wipes should be thrown in the garbage.
"While they may get flushed down through the toilet, they really aren't flushable, and they cause lot and lot of problems with the municipal wastewater system," said Rebecca Flood, assistant commissioner for water policy with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.
The disposable wipes are about 30 to 45 percent plastic and don't break down the same way as toilet paper in the wastewater system, she told the St. Cloud Times.
The problems caused by disposable wipes have long been the ire of municipalities throughout the state, according to League of Minnesota Citie lobbyist Craig Johnson.
"These wipes collect in pipes and valves and in pumps, and essentially turn into a concrete-hard substance that requires that the entire system be torn apart," Johnson said. "It's very expensive and very avoidable."
City workers often have to remove the wipes after they get clogged around the pumps or caught in the screens of wastewater treatment systems, and they sometimes cause backups in homes, Flood said.
The League of Minnesota Cities is asking state lawmakers to take action on the proposal during the current legislative session. But it's unclear whether the state Legislature will take action on the proposal this year because it's a short session that's expected to be past paced.