MACOMB COUNTY, Mich. (WXYZ) — Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller is suing manufacturers of disposable wipes for misleading packaging.
Miller says many wipes are labeled as being "flushable" down toilets. However, they do not biodegrade like toilet paper, she says, causing significant damage and expense in sewer systems.
“Particularly now, the last thing anyone needs is a major sewer back-up. These wipes are truly the scourge of sewer systems. They become almost like a rope, wrapping themselves around pumps and clogging up sewers, causing enormous problems,” Miller said.
In 2018, a 19-ton mass of wipes and grease, known as the Macomb County fatberg, was removed from a sewer system. In 2019, Macomb County Public Works removed a 1-ton mass of wipes, known as the Ragball, thousands of wipes knotted up together. Miller says the two incidents, in total, costed the county about $100,000 to remove.
Her lawsuit lists more than a dozen communities that have had expensive sewer repair issues due to wipes.
“Really, this is a global issue, anywhere there are municipal sewer systems,” Miller said.
The suit names nine defendants, each a manufacturer of wipes. Together, the nine companies represent the vast majority of wipes produced and sold in the U.S., Miller says.
“We are not trying to get the companies to stop making wipes. We want them to change the label and make it clear that these are not to be flushed. Some of the packages even say that they are safe to be flushed, but only one at a time. Well, the reality is, these things combine together in our systems and cause huge problems. Please, change the labels and help solve this problem,” she said.
Named as defendants in the suit are: Dude Products, Inc.; Nehemiah Manufacturing Company LLC; Kimberly-Clark Corporation; Proctor & Gamble Company; Nice-Pak Products, Inc.; Professional Disposables International, Inc.; Rockline Industries, Inc.; S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc.; and C.B. Fleet Company, Inc.