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Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton

Representing the District of Columbia

Places in Washington DC

Norton Condemns Harris for Third Attack on Local D.C. Laws, This Time on Bathroom Wipes that Clog Pipes and Sewers

Jun 16, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today condemned Representative Andy Harris’ (R-MD) newest threat to block a District of Columbia law, one regulating the labeling of personal hygiene products, particularly wet wipes, as safe to flush.  Harris, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, told The Washington Post yesterday that he is considering blocking the law during the upcoming appropriations process.  Harris has tried to block D.C.’s law legalizing marijuana possession and earlier this year he announced his intention to block D.C.’s medical aid-in-dying law.

“Representative Harris is a serial abuser of Congress’ illegitimate power over the local laws of the District of Columbia,” Norton said.  “Now he seems willing to get down into the gutter to clog the pipes and sewers of private homes, federal agencies, and the city alike in the District of Columbia.  The D.C. government has no objection to disposable wipes, which are also marketed correctly in other countries, but the so-called ‘flushable’ wipes industry has little incentive to improve its product if Congress puts its outsized thumb on the scale.  I hardly think Representative Harris’ constituents are content with his responding to lobbyists trying to overturn a local D.C. law instead of to his own Maryland constituents.”

The nonwoven disposable products industry began aggressively lobbying Members to block the D.C. law during the appropriations process, after the industry tried but failed to find a Member to introduce a disapproval resolution to nullify the bill during the congressional review process.  Harris acknowledged to the Post that he met with an industry lobbyist last month about the law.

The D.C. Council unanimously passed the Nonwoven Disposable Products Act of 2016, and the mayor signed it, after the Council held a hearing with witnesses representing industry and wastewater utilities.  According to the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, utilities spend $500 million-$1 billion per year to address clogs and other problems caused by the flushing of nonwoven disposable products, and there are health and safety risks for workers who clear these clogs.

The Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry (INDA), as well as its members, has been leading the effort to block the law.  The INDA has published several op-eds in the conservative press and local D.C. papers in opposition to the law.