News Briefs: Utilities Ask Congress for Billions in Relief as Industrial Customers Scale Back Operations

Also in this week's sewer and water news, a toilet paper shortage and increased use in disinfecting wipes due to COVID-19 is causing clogs for wastewater utilities nationwide

Public water and wastewater utilities are asking Congress for $12.5 billion in relief to offset lost revenue as industrial and commercial wastewater customers scale back operations during the COVID-19 pandemic and service is restored to delinquent rate-payers.

The National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) made the request, writing that as the nation grapples with the COVID-19 response, the nation’s public clean water agencies are at the front lines of ensuring Americans have reliable, critical clean water services.

The impacts to these utilities will be enormous, according to NACWA, and the association claims that:

  • Without federal assistance, the “cost of writing off customer debt owed to the utility and reinstating service” will be passed on to water customers;
  • NACWA represents public wastewater and stormwater agencies across the country, and those publicly owned wastewater utilities provide essential services;
  • Average loss of revenues from declining usage is estimated at 20%, but some utilities may be seeing losses as high as 30% to 40%.

Increased Use in Wipes Causing Problems for Sewers and Treatment Facilities

In other news, COVID-19 is wreaking havoc on sewer systems and wastewater treatment plants nationwide in unexpected ways, as local toilet paper shortages paired with a huge increase in the use of disinfecting wipes is leading people to improperly dispose of wipes and other items by flushing them.

In fact, the issue has gotten so bad in Redding, California, that some people are finding other ways to wipe after using the bathroom, and someone even flushed shredded T-shirts used for such a purpose.

“Flushing wipes, paper towels and similar products down toilets will clog sewers and cause backups and overflows at wastewater treatment facilities, creating an additional public health risk in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic,” California’s State Water Resources Control Board said recently in a public advisory. “Even wipes labeled ‘flushable’ will clog pipes and interfere with sewage collection and treatment throughout the state.”

Judging by the sheer amount of similar stories and social media posts about wipes clogging processes and pipes utilities around the nation this past week, the problem so bad it’s almost universal. Here’s one such post shared by El Paso (Texas) Water:


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