CWEA Member Profile: Melody LaBella, Central Contra Costa Sanitary District

MelodyLaBellaMelody LaBella
Pollution Prevention Program Coordinator
Central Contra Costa Sanitary District

“I have a passion for preventing pollution, both to protect the environment and to safeguard the public’s investment in wastewater infrastructure.”

1. Can you describe your involvement with the upcoming P3S Conference?

I’ll be participating in the morning session on Wednesday, March 2nd, called “What Not to Flush.” It’s a follow-up to the ‘What2Flush’ Summit, held at the CWEA Conference in San Diego last May. I will again be presenting with Heidi Sanborn, the Executive Director of the California Product Stewardship Council. I’ll be providing an update on our industry’s war against wipes and Heidi will be focusing on drug takeback programs and ordinances. Jamie Malpede, with Orange County Sanitation District, early leaders on the wipes issue and creators of the ‘What2Flush’ campaign, will be closing the session with a presentation called “Flushed!”

2. What are the main learning outcomes for your presentation?

As with every time I present for CWEA on this issue, my goals are to:

  1. Keep CWEA members informed about the developments in every aspect of this issue, including agency problems, new legal and regulatory actions, media attention, outreach campaigns, and the national collaborative efforts going on behind the scenes between the wastewater and wipes industries.
  2. Receive feedback and input on this issue from CWEA members.  As a national representative on this issue, I’m constantly trying to synthesize our state’s and our industry’s stance on this issue.  Presentations like this provide me with a lot of helpful feedback to me.
  3. Entertain the audience.  If you’ve ever been to one of my presentations, you know I like to make people laugh.  There’s nothing worse than a boring presentation- especially on the last morning of the conference

3. Are we convincing the public about “What2Flush” and is there anything we should be doing better?

Unfortunately, we’re up against both convenience and the marketing machine, so while we’ve won some battles, we have a long way to go to win the war against people treating their toilets like trash cans.

4. Are the wipes manufacturers doing anything to curb the problems caused by flushing nondispersibles?

The two national workgroups, a collaboration among NACWA (National Association of Clean Water Agencies), WEF (Water Environment Federation), and APWA (American Public Works Association) are comprised of wipes and wastewater industry representatives from all over the country, continue to make progress.

One workgroup, known as GD4, continues to focus on developing a fourth set of guidelines for defining dispersibility for wipes intended to be flushed.

I’m currently serving on the other workgroup, which is known as the Wipes Product Stewardship Initiative (PSI). The wipes PSI is focused on labeling requirements for both flushable and non-flushable wipes, in addition to modifying the wipes industry’s voluntary code of practice for wipes manufacturers. The goal of both these workgroups is to minimize the impacts of wipes to our industry’s conveyance and treatment facilities.

5. How did you get involved with this topic?

I have a passion for preventing pollution, both to protect the environment and to safeguard the public’s investment in wastewater infrastructure.  While my career has focused mostly on chemical pollutants that can’t be seen once they enter the wastewater stream, wipes are a wonderful and very visual example of what a bunch of people flushing little bits of pollution looks like when it combines in our Pipelines, pump stations and treatment plants.

Our wastewater infrastructure is not cheaply or easily replaced, so consumer products and flushing behaviors need to conform to our systems, not vice-versa.  This is the message I’ve been trying to relay to the wipes industry.

It’s not too late to register for the 2016 P3S (Pretreatment, Pollution Prevention and Stormwater) conference being held at the Riverside Convention Center. You will receive essential training on critical updates and new developments in the water and wastewater sectors.

P3S February 29 – March 2, 2016: Protecting our Precious Resources


About the Author

Chris Lundeen

Support great stories about water professionals & projects. Join CWEA

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *