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September 17, 2021

12/22/2016 1:08:00 PM
Sewer commission hears update on wipes lawsuit

Collecting evidence from Minnesota municipal sewage systems to support a class action lawsuit against so-called flushable wipes, is tough on a good day, and impossible when the wintertime temps settle in.
Chisago Lakes Joint Sewage Treatment Plant Supervisor Mark Nelson told the CLJSTC members this week that he refused to breakdown pumps in the wastewater network when lawyers for the wipes industry recently asked him to.  Nelson said under freezing conditions the pumps could sustain damages when re-started.  The lawsuit representatives did perform an on-site inspection, Nelson added.

He said he was asked to save evidence which will presumably be tested on the part of the defense of the non-woven fabrics.  Manufacturers are contending that only certain wipes do not qualify as “flushable” and the makers of the non-woven cellous fabric wipes are positioning their products as “flushable.”

Lawsuit inspectors are also traveling around the state checking pump control panels and focusing on facilities  involved in the multi-city lawsuit, filed in spring 2015, with the City of Wyoming signing on as the lead complainant.  Other cities suing for damages include Mankato, Fergus Falls, Princeton, Elk River.

The CLJSTC is part of one of several class action suits underway in the U.S.  Entities that operate wastewater treatments systems say they have encountered costly damages and had to clear clogs they attribute to wipes that are marketed as flushable.  They seek compensation for costs and want the “flushable wipes” on the market to no longer be sold as such.

Attorney Ted Alliegro advised the CLJSTC that if the defense (wipes manufacturers)seeks certain accomodations, the sewer commission (as plaintiffs) need to respond accordingly.  Alliegro added, that if participation by the commission in the lawsuit fact-gathering phase becomes too onerous, the commission can always pull out.  Plant Supervisor Nelson added that this last request for on-site visits used up noticeable staff time and resources, and he said he simply drew-the-line at dis-assembly of pumps in winter.

The non-woven fabric industry is working on developing new labels and doing public awareness, according to a March 2016 Politico article on-line.  Manufacturers are also standing behind claims of some products meeting standards for being flushable because they have been proven to breakdown in sewer systems.

In other business at the meeting:

~ A special session was scheduled to hear from two solar representatives, one  for a possible subscription in a community solar graden and the other on use of land at the treatment plant for a small, short-term (10 year) array installation.  

The CLJSTC previously declined a request for a multiple acre array tying-up public land for some 30 years.  
The special session is either January 4 or Jan. 6.  The CLJSTC meets at Lindstrom City Hall.

The commission utilizes over 1.8 million kilowatt hours annually,  and as a large consumer it would be an ideal subscriber to support solar array sites.  There are varying programs offering benefits and savings from solar investments,  and the commission members want to hear proposals to compare options.

~ Fees charged to member cities will increase next year.  The budget committee reviews cost effectiveness.  Members are charged by their system-owned capacity (which is set in bylaws) and flow (metered.)  Member cities are Stacy, Wyoming, Chisago City, Lindstrom and Center City and the county (government center) has capacity.  A South Center Sanitary Sewer District also belongs (Hazelden area) and uses the wastewater treatment system,  but has no voting member at this time.

~ Banks within the CLJSTC service area will be getting letters soliciting banking services costs and details on any special benefits for doing business with that bank, such as checking accounts, etc

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