The small city of Wyoming, Minnesota is taking on the giants of the flushable wipes industry. A class action lawsuit is calling on companies like Procter and Gamble to admit their wipes are not flushable, and demands a jury trial that seeks damages for the city's sewer problems.
"Contrary to the defendants' representations, these flushable wipes do not degrade after flushing," the lawsuit states. "Rather, the flushable wipes remain intact long enough to pass through private wastewater drain pipes into the municipal sewer line causing clogs and other issues for municipal and county sewer systems and wastewater treatment plants, resulting in thousands, if not millions, of dollars in damages."
Wyoming is a town of fewer than 10,000 people, about 30 miles north of Minneapolis-St. Paul. The city operates 13 lift stations that pump wastewater to a treatment facility co-owned by the cities of Wyoming, Chisago, Lindstrom and Stacy. The lawsuit claims the city has been hit with the extra expense of removing flushable wipes from its sewer system, and faces "the continuing, ongoing threat of future harm" from the sale of wipes advertised as "flushable" and "sewer and septic safe."
The lawsuit highlights cases of flushable wipes causing sewer problems in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Colorado, New York, Texas and other states. It also points to a 15-ton, bus-sized clog of wipes and coagulated grease that took 3 weeks to dislodge from a London sewer main in 2013.
As a result of the repeated clogs, the city of Wyoming's lift stations have had mechanical damage that have required the hiring of an outside sewer repair company to vacuum out the system's pipes every few months.
3 of the city's 13 lift stations are in need of repair due to the impact that wipes have had on the system.
Wipe makers named in lawsuit
Proctor and Gamble
Nice-Pak Products, Inc.
Professional Disposables International
"Despite the defendants' knowledge of this and the need to reduce wear and tear on the country's sewer systems, they continue to market these wipes as flushable and safe for sewer systems," the lawsuit says. "Indeed, when faced with questions about the damage caused to various sewer authorities, Defendant Kimberly-Clark claimed, in a July 2013 newspaper article, that ‘if the company labels a product as flushable, it stands by that' and it remains ‘confident in the claim.'"