EPA Helps NACWA Underscore “Toilets Are Not Trashcans” Message

(April 3, 2020) – EPA issued a news release on March 30 to encourage Americans to only flush toilet paper. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and toilet paper shortages, wastewater utilities have seen an increase in flushing of wipes and other materials. Also, the use and flushing of disinfecting wipes has increased. These materials do not break apart quickly after being flushed, leading to clogs in pipes, pumps, and other wastewater conveyance and treatment equipment. 

The EPA press release explains why flushing materials other than toilet paper can cause problems for sewer and septic systems, and explains that “fixing these backups is costly and takes time and resources away from ensuring that wastewater management systems are otherwise working properly” and that having  “fully operational wastewater services is critical to containing COVID-19 and protecting Americans from other public health risks.” EPA also expresses gratitude to utility workers: “Our nation’s wastewater employees are everyday heroes who are on the frontline of protecting human health and the environment every single day.”

NACWA appreciates EPA adding its voice to the Toilets Are Not Trashcans campaign and delivering the message to only flush the 3 Ps: pee, poop, and toilet paper. Local and national media have also covered this issue extensively in the last few weeks.

With Washington becoming the first state with a wipes labeling law last week, and California and Minnesota considering wipes bills, momentum is building to improve wipes labeling and to educate the public about what can and cannot be flushed. NACWA will continue its Toilets Are Not Trashcans campaign with additional messaging in the coming weeks.  NACWA encourages all clean water agencies to keep spreading the Toilets Are Not Trashcans message with your local press and through social media.

Please contact Cynthia Finley, NACWA’s Director of Regulatory Affairs, for more information.