News Briefs: FTC Halts Nice-Pak Flushable Wipes Advertising

In this week's water and wastewater news, the FTC regulates 'flushable wipes' advertising, new Clean Water Act rules are blocked by a federal appeals court, and Hawaii tackles the problem of cesspools
News Briefs: FTC Halts Nice-Pak Flushable Wipes Advertising

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The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has finalized a consent order that requires Nice-Pak Products to stop advertising that its moist tissue and cloth products are flushable or are safe for sewer and septic systems unless it can substantiate the claims. In a notice issued Nov. 2, the FTC said the company must show the products, sold under several different brand names, will “disperse in a sufficiently short amount of time after flushing to prevent clogging and/or damage to household plumbing, sewage lines, septic systems and other standard wastewater treatment equipment.”

The FTC issued the original complaint in May 2015, saying Nice-Pak misrepresented the claim that certain wipes are safe for sewer and septic systems, break apart shortly after being flushed, and are safe to flush. The November notice explains that any substantiation from the company “must be based on the expertise of professionals in the relevant area and have been conducted and evaluated in an objective manner by qualified persons, using procedures generally accepted in the profession to yield accurate and reliable results. Those tests must substantially replicate the physical conditions of the claimed environment in which the item can be properly disposed.”

Clean Water Act rules blocked by federal appeals court
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s updated Clean Water Act rules were blocked nationally by a federal appeals court on Oct. 9. A federal judge in North Dakota had earlier stayed the rules, but that case applied to just 13 states. That order was extended to all states by the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. In a 2-1 ruling, the court stated, “A stay temporarily silences the whirlwind of confusion that springs from uncertainty about the requirements of the new rule and whether they will survive legal testing.”

The EPA says the news rules apply to only 3 percent more waterways, but opponents claim the effects will be much broader. The agency began updating the rules in reaction to two U.S. Supreme Court rulings that raised questions about which waterways, small streams and wetlands were covered by the federal law.

Also, on Nov. 4, the U.S. Senate voted to block the rule under the Congressional Review Act. President Obama has said he would veto the resolution if it reaches his desk. It passed on a 55-43 vote just a day after the Senate bill requiring the EPA to rewrite the rule died. Needing 60 votes to end debate on the bill, it failed to advance on a 57-41 vote.

EPA fines Hawaiian businesses using large-capacity cesspools
As Hawaii continues to reduce the number of cesspools in use across the islands, several businesses that still use them have been fined by the EPA. The EPA has fined one resort $187,500, a hotel $40,000 and a night club $82,425. The resort has closed some of its cesspools, but still has 14 in operation and has committed to replacing them with approved septic systems over the next three years.

Large capacity cesspools — those that serve non-residential buildings or multiple residential units — have been banned in Hawaii since 2005. More than 3,000 have been closed since then. However, the state has more cesspools than any other state — about 90,000 — and still allows about 800 new small-capacity cesspools annually.

Since July, the state has been offering individual homeowners a $10,000 tax credit to replace their cesspools with septic tanks or aerobic systems. A proposed ban on new cesspools has yet to become law due to opposition from many groups.


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