Cynthia Finley is Director-Regulatory Affairs at NACWA, an organisation which represents ~300 publically-owned sewage works, and hence the majority of the sewered population of the USA. She mentioned the $100bn US annual maintenance spend on sewer infrastructure and the EPA’s need for an additional $300-$500bn to replace obsolete sewers over the next 20 years. She was against labelling products as “Flushable” and felt that allowing some wipes to be flushed would cause confusion. It would be hard to tell the difference between a flushable and non-flushable wipe without reading the packet, and both types would be flushed by some people.
With regard to the flushability testing methods she pointed out that the toilet flush is the most turbulence a wipe would experience in the sewer system. Flow is laminar in 45mm sewer pipes and even flushable wipes fail to disperse further after the flush. Slides indicated that colour-coded flushable wipes are leaving the sewer pipes without disintegration. So, a modified “slosh box” test is needed because the current version is too turbulent and passes products which might fail in an actual sewer.
NACWA is now working with INDA, the Water Environment Federations and the American Public Works Association to further evaluate the Maine pilot consumer education project results, to plan a national campaign, and to expand the use of the “Do Not Flush” label.