News Briefs: Washington Governor Signs Law to Label Some Wipes 'Do Not Flush'

Also in this week's sewer and water news, a sewage study claims Massachusetts is significantly undercounting its COVID-19 cases

Washington Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon of Washington recently applauded Gov. Jay Inslee’s signing of a bill into law intended to address the labeling of certain disposable wipes.

The law, spearheaded by Rep. Fitzgibbon, chairman of the Washington House Environment and Energy Committee, represents a months-long effort and requires packages of certain disposable wipes to carry prominent “Do Not Flush” labeling to help guide consumers to dispose of them appropriately in the trash.

“I introduced this legislation in response to concerns voiced by Washington sewer system operators that consumers are flushing certain categories of wipes that are not intended to be,” says Rep. Fitzgibbon. “I was pleased to sponsor legislation that brought together municipalities and industry to find a common sense solution to this problem and am proud that Washington is the first state in the nation to tackle this issue in a meaningful way.”

Sewage Study Claims Massachusetts Is Undercounting Its COVID-19 Cases

Researchers from a biotech startup called Biobot Analytics recently reported that they took samples from a wastewater treatment plant in an unnamed metro area in Massachusetts and found COVID-19 in the sewage at higher levels than expected.

The findings indicate that reported cases in that area are greatly underestimating the number of people who are actually infected.

One of the study’s authors is stressing that the public is not at risk of contracting the virus from wastewater and that the study is purely meant to gauge how much of the public is infected  by COVID-19.

“Even if those viral particles are no longer active or capable of infecting humans, they may still carry genetic material that can be detected using an approach called polymerase chain reaction, which amplifies the genetic signal many orders of magnitude, creating billions of copies of the genome for each starting virus,” author Eric Alm tells Newsweek.

New Hampshire Study Spurs Change in Drinking Water Standards

Recent research out of the University of New Hampshire has led to new drinking water standards for arsenic in the state.

The study found that New Hampshire residents were willing to invest in water treatment infrastructure if it mean that drinking water would be safer and arsenic levels would be lower.

“Our research led to the conclusion that the benefits of reduced mortality and morbidity from reducing the incidence of bladder and lung cancers far outweighed the costs of additional water treatment to remove arsenic,” says John Halstead, researcher with the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station and professor of environmental economics in the UNH College of Life Sciences and Agriculture.

Gov. Chris Sununu signed HB 261 last year, limiting the amount of arsenic in public drinking water to half the federal limit, or 5 ppb. New Hampshire joined only New Jersey in setting the lowest-in-the-nation drinking water standard.

“Armed with the facts, we were able to change the maximum contaminant level and can now work to truly and positively impact the health of our citizens,” says Thomas O’Donovan, New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services water division director.


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