Evidence Collection Underway Regarding Flushable Wipes Class Action Lawsuit

January 05, 2017 10:34 PM

Attorneys representing flushable wipes companies have now come out to Minnesota for their own inspection of clogs cities claim are damaging the sewers.

Cities in Minnesota are suing six companies for advertising certain wipes as flushable.

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The cities are seeking compensation for time and money spent to repair and unclog the sewers.

The class action lawsuit includes the cities of Wyoming, Mankato, Holmen, Fergus Falls, Elk River and Princeton, along with the Chisago Lakes Joint Sewage Commission, Sauk Centre Public Utilities Commission.

They are suing six companies: Procter & Gamble Company, Kimberly-Clark Corporation, Nice-Pak Products, Inc., Professional Disposables International, Inc., Tufco Technologies Inc. and Rockline Industries, for advertising wipes as flushable.

Chisago Lakes Joint Sewage Plant Superintendent Mark Nelson has seen all kinds of items get flushed away but says the most frustrating of them all remains the wipe.

"We recently had one station that plugged a pump four times in one day," said Nelson.

As part of the class-action lawsuit, the court ordered the cities involved to allow company lawyers to check out the sewer systems themselves.

However, due to our Minnesota temperatures, Nelson couldn't haul out all of the equipment requested for inspection.

"With the cold weather, it's hard to have equipment sitting outside," he said.

Wipes are getting caught in screens, clogging pipes, building up and costing cities both man hours and a lot of money.

The dumpster at Nelson's plant gets filled up with clogging debris once a week.

Companies argue the wipes clogging systems are non-flushable wipes that people flush anyway.

A Kimberly-Clark representative tells 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, "Our products meet or exceed the widely accepted industry standards of flushability," and, "In Minnesota, Kimberly-Clark is not aware of any instance where a K-C flushable wipe has caused a clog in a municipal sewer."

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission recently finished an investigation into the marketing claims for Kimberly-Clark's flushable wipes.
That investigation closed without any negative findings against the company.

Dave Rousse, President of INDA, the Association of the Non-woven Fabrics Industry, says people believe all wipes are flushable, but really only 7 percent of wipes on the market will break down in sewers.

He blames the consumer for the clogs, adding, "Too many wipes that shouldn't get flushed are getting flushed."

The lawsuit was filed in 2015 and, right now, the a 20-day jury trial isn't scheduled to start until April of 2018.


Katherine Johnson

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