May 16, 2016

Prescription Collection Service Diverts Drugs From Drain

More than 250 lb of drugs passed into MWRD's collection in less than two days

medication, prescription, drugs, disposal, green, clean, water, environment

The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) collected 257 lb of drugs for safe disposal as part of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) National Drug Take Back Day.

The event, held at three of MWRD's water reclamation plants (WRP) and headquarters downtown, provided a safe, convenient and responsible means for disposing of prescription drugs, while also educating the general public about the potential for abuse of medications and potential harm to the environment.

On April 29 and 30, the Stickney WRP in Cicero collected 139.4 lb of medicine, while the O'Brien WRP in Skokie amassed 88.8 lb and the Calumet WRP on the far South Side of Chicago took in 4 lb. In addition, MWRD's main office building at 100 E. Erie St. collected 25 lb.

When deposited in toilets and drains, drugs are destined for local waterways. Water treatment facilities are not designed to remove minute concentrations of pharmaceuticals, and the chemicals could eventually wind up in area streams and waterways and have a negative impact on water quality and aquatic life.

"It's important not to dispose of medications down the drain because they end up in the water supply. Controlling what goes down the drain is the easiest and most effective way to protect our environment," said MWRD President Mariyana Spyropoulos. "We are pleased to partner with the DEA on this important event. By collecting these drugs, we are offering various environmental benefits to our personal health and our water resources."

To prevent or reduce accidental contamination of streams, rivers and lakes, MWRD has worked with the DEA Chicago Field Div. to participate in the initiative each year since the event was launched in 2010. This latest collection eclipses the previous Drug Take Back Day in September 2015, when MWRD collected 237 lb of unwanted pharmaceuticals.

There are many ways to reduce the amount of pharmaceuticals before they reach treatment facilities and waterways. The first is to complete the course of treatment as prescribed by the physician. For over-the-counter products, a supply should be monitored and stored in one location at home to prevent the purchase of additional or extras. Homeowners are encouraged never to pour pharmaceuticals down the toilet or drain or give or sell them to others. For those with unwanted medicine unable to participate in Drug Take Back Day, there are various police stations and municipalities across Cook County that allow medicine to be deposited throughout the year. The city of Chicago collects unwanted medicine 24 hours per day, seven days per week at its police facilities.