Water industry welcomes ‘flushable’ wipes court decision

Water utilities have welcomed the decision by the Federal Court of Australia to fine a company for misleading claims about its ‘flushable’ bathroom wipes.

The Federal Court of Australia has ordered Pental and Pental Products to pay penalties of $700,000 for making false and misleading representations about its White King ‘flushable’ toilet and bathroom cleaning wipes.

Hunter Water welcomed the decision.

“Like other utilities around Australia, Hunter Water has strongly advocated that these products do not break down like toilet paper after flushing, and they contribute to expensive blockages for our customers at their homes and in wastewater systems,” Hunter Water said in a statement.

“Wet wipes are involved in around 80 per cent of Hunter Water’s sewer system blockages. If wet wipes do make it through the system without contributing to a blockage, they need to be manually removed at our wastewater treatment plants. “

It is estimated Hunter Water removes approximately 75 tonnes of the products each year.

In February 2016, Hunter Water crews had to use a crane to remove a one-tonne fatberg from a pumping station at Eleebana.

“Our advice to customers is to only ever flush human waste and toilet paper. If people do use these products, they should always be disposed of in the bin, regardless of what the packaging says. This is a consistent view of major water utilities across the globe.”

WSAA also welcomed the announcement.

“WSAA and the urban water industry in Australia and New Zealand have been concerned for some time about the contribution of wet wipe products to pipe blockages and in turn disruption to customer services, extra costs and impacts on the environment,” Executive Director WSAA, Adam Lovell said.

WSAA is progressing the development of an Australian Standard which would provide clear specifications for what is ‘flushable’.

WSAA is seeking to have a draft document completed by the end of 2018.

“An Australian Standard would provide manufacturers with clear specifications to design products compatible with the sewerage network,” Mr Lovell said.

Separately, WSAA recently represented Standards Australia as part of an International Standards Organisation meeting to finalise a reference document outlining aspects of the sewerage system that manufacturers should consider in designing products intended for toilet disposal.

Without a standard, WSAA and its members continue to call for clearer labelling and advise customers that only the 3Ps – Pee, Poo and toilet Paper – should be flushed.

“This is an international issue for water utilities around the globe and while there is no standard at present, customers need clearer labelling to ensure these products do not contribute to blockages in urban wastewater systems,” Mr Lovell said.

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