'Flushable' wipes clogging up sewer system in New York City

ByRenee Stoll via WABC logo
Thursday, February 12, 2015
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Renee Stoll reports some lawmakers say the wipes marketed as convenient are instead a huge inconvenience.

GREENPOINT (WABC) -- While "flushable" wipes are marketed as convenient, some lawmakers say they're a huge inconvenience and want changes in how they're sold.

"In the past we'd pull things out, normal stuff that you'd see in street, litter like a tin can, a plastic bottle," said Vinny Sapienza, the Deputy Commissioner of DEP.

Now the Department of Environmental Protection would be happy to find that kind of garbage in their sewer system, instead they're inundated with wipes for your behind.

"More than 90% of what we get now is baby wipes," Sapienza said.

You really just can't get away from these wipes, Eyewitness News found them on the stairs, they basically dry up and fly all over the place. They're even dried up on the equipment gear as well.

"It is a labor issue for our guys, constantly cleaning and removing these wipes from wherever they end up," Sapienza said.

The wipes are costing tax payers an additional $3 million a year to clean out.

Just because a box of wipes is labeled "flushable" doesn't mean it breaks down in the pipes like toilet paper.

"It's really their industry organization that came up with the term flushable," Sapienza said.

It's such a problem two local council members are going after the companies who label their products flushable, with a bill that would change that.

"We want to educate New Yorkers, but we also want to let manufacturers known that they should not be false advertising that their particular wipes are flushable when they're not," said Councilman Donovan Richards, (D) Queens.

Will changing the labeling stop New Yorkers from flushing these wipes down the pipes?

"That's what we hope to change, human behavior but it has to start with the manufacturer," Richards said.

And at the cost of $5,000 per fine if this bill passes, it just may flush out the problem the DEP is having.