SALT LAKE CITY — They are often advertised as flushable, but Utah sewer officials say moist wipes are clogging up the state’s sewer lines.
“People think ‘Oh, it’s a little like toilet paper so I can use it like toilet paper, just flush it,’ but it doesn’t quite break up the same as toilet paper,” explained Jill Jones, general manager for the Central Davis Sewer District.
During a Wednesday presentation to the Public Utilities, Energy, and Technology Interim Committee at the Utah State Capitol, Jones educated lawmakers on the cost and impact the growing industry is having on sewer districts.
“Negative impacts of wipes have increased since wipes have become so popular,” she said, estimating the cost of maintenance due to wipes clogging the system to be somewhere around $1 per person in Davis County. The U.S. Census Bureau in 2017 put the county’s population at nearly 350,000.
She noted that when expanding that estimate to the population statewide, Utah taxpayers are likely paying roughly $3 million for a problem she called sewer officials’ “worst nightmare.”
Legislation to regulate labeling of the so-called flushable wipes has been explored both federally and in California. However, Jones said the department is not yet seeking legislative action in Utah.
“We just want to get the word out,” she said, noting that her presentation to legislators was “a kickoff to a public relations campaign” that she hopes will warn Utahns to only flush “the three P’s: pee, poo and paper.”
She said sewer officials are optimistic the campaign will work, “but if not, we’ll be back.”
According to recent market projections, the flushable wipes market is projected to reach $3.5 billion by 2023 with many products marketing the hygienic benefits of wet versus dry wiping.
However, Jones said hygiene does not need to come at the expense of the state’s sewer lines and taxpayers.
“Just throw them in the trash,” she said.