Who is a member?
Our members are the local governments of Massachusetts and their elected and appointed leadership.
The Honorable Daniel Cahill, House Chair
The Honorable Rebecca Rausch, Senate Chair
Joint Committee on Environment and Natural Resources
State House, Boston
Dear Chair Cahill, Chair Rausch, and Distinguished Members of the Committee,
On behalf of the 351 cities and towns of the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Municipal Association is pleased to express our support for H. 805 and S. 480, An Act protecting wastewater and sewerage systems through the labeling of non-flushable wipes.
Disposable, premoistened, nonwoven wipes serve many purposes: cleaning, sanitizing, disinfecting, and personal care and hygiene. Wipes are commonly marketed as flushable and contain vague, subtle labeling on packaging that consumers often do not notice or feel inclined to follow. Municipalities that provide for the collection and transport of wastewater know firsthand the consequences of the continued flushing of wipes: costly clogs, fouled pumps, and sanitary sewer overflows. As these wipes are almost always manufactured using plastic, petrochemical-derived fibers, these wipes do not break down in sewer pipes or septic tanks.
H. 805 and S. 480 would require consistent “Do Not Flush” labeling for wipe products sold or distributed in Massachusetts. This additional specification on packaging will importantly improve and better align the perception of wipes as disposable with the reality that these materials belong in waste baskets, not toilets or wastewater pipes.
These companion bills would offer financial benefits to cities and towns by reducing the number of wipes entering wastewater systems. The National Association of Clean Water Agencies estimates that wipes add about $441 million per year in supplemental operating costs for water utilities. In Massachusetts, it is estimated that approximately $10 million is spent each year to address these avoidable complications. Wipes travel into municipal wastewater pipes where they can easily tangle and clog at critical points, which can result in sanitary and combined sewer overflows or backups into residential tubs, toilets, and sinks. The cleanup costs are ultimately borne by ratepayers, as department of public works staff work to quickly and effectively clear wipes from municipally managed pipes.
Further, the bill would also provide for the creation of the Massachusetts Consumer Education and Outreach Program, an initiative to study consumer behavior on flushing these “dispersible” products in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and wastewater collection systems. This program would collect necessary data to evaluate the effectiveness of labeling and consumer education efforts across the state.
Wastewater treatment is an incredibly essential form of pollution control; it is imperative that wastewater travels the whole distance to treatment plants to prevent environmentally harmful discharges into the Commonwealth’s streams, rivers and waters. This bill would not only result in cost savings for municipalities and their water treatment facilities, but also would work to protect public health and our environment by reducing the prevalence of wipes across sewerage systems.
We look forward to working with you on this important issue, and we respectfully urge you to provide H. 805 and S. 480 with a favorable report. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to have your office contact me or MMA Legislative Analyst Josie Ahlberg at email@example.com at any time.
MMA Executive Director and CEO