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Clackamas County's public educational materials focused on so-called flushable wipes

Clackamas County's Water Environment Services (WES) has been awarded with a national achievement award for educating the public.

WES's award-winning educational campaign was featured in the Clackamas Review/Oregon City News in June 2017 as part of a news article headlined "


On Feb. 6, WES received 2019 National Environment Achievement Award from the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) for its Keep the Wipes Out! educational campaign designed to protect sewer infrastructure, water quality and watershed health. The award, given in the Civic Education and Public Information category, was presented to WES Director Greg Geist at ACWA's conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

2017 FILE PHOTO - Kevin Rotrock, a WES sanitary sewer and stormwater technician, cleans out a pile of wipes that clogged the equipment at a local pump station. The campaign was designed to raise awareness of damages caused by so-called "flushable" baby wipes. Unlike toilet paper, the wipes do not disintegrate in water despite being marketed as "flushable," and become entangled in sewer equipment, causing tens of thousands of dollars in damage each year.

Many of the wipes release microplastics that are not removed by the wastewater-treatment process. They can be harmful to fish and other aquatic life. The campaign's main goals included:

• Protecting water quality within the WES service area for public and environmental health.

• Educating community about behaviors that impact watershed health, water quality and sustainable infrastructure.

• Upgrading working conditions of WES staff by reducing health risks due to hand-removal of wipe-caused clogs from pumps.

• Promoting intergovernmental cooperation and coordination in addressing shared problems.

The campaign inspired the collaboration of local and national partners in an effort to educate the public, especially new parents, about sewage backups caused by the wipes and other clog-inducing products flushed down the toilet.

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