Experts: Dispose of pills at sites to keep water clean
By Mandi Steele For the News Tribune
Don't flush, pour down the drain or throw away unwanted pills - that's the message officials are trying to get out about prescription medications.
Brad Rayburn, EPA water training specialist for the Missouri Rural Water Association (MRWA), asks that residents dispose of the drugs correctly, so as not to contaminate Missouri waterways.
Rayburn explained that when environmental officials released a study showing how they discovered traces of prescription drugs in several states' drinking water, it changed the way authorities asked people to dispose of these medications.
"We're trying to make more people aware of what could happen," he said. "We don't want to see people becoming ill, because they're drinking water with prescription drugs in it."
Authorities now recommend disposing of unwanted or unused drugs by bringing them to a prescription drug take-back or hazardous waste site. The Drug Enforcement Administration's National Prescription Drug Take Back Day will be on Oct. 29 this year.
Callaway County is getting in on the action by offering three sites for residents to drop off pills from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29.
In Fulton, pills can be brought to Callaway 2 Water District at the intersection of Westminster Avenue and Eunice Road.
In Auxvasse, the take-back site will be at the Auxvasse Community Hall at 115 S. Main St.
In Holts Summit, the Holts Summit Police Department will offer a site at City Hall.
Cap. Darryl Maylee, Callaway County Sheriff's chief deputy, said an officer with the CCSO will be on-site in Fulton and Auxvasse for their take-backs. He said besides polluting water, two other reasons to properly dispose of medications is to keep them out of the hands of youths and to prevent people's homes from being burglarized by criminals wanting the drugs.
Yolanda Smith, executive chair of the Youth On Up committee, said the problem of area teens abusing or selling prescription drugs is more common than people realize. Youth On Up is a community group that works to keep teens drugfree. The group has organized some of its own take-backs in the past. Smith said Vicodin and Oxycodone are two of the most commonly abused medications. She asked that parents be aware of what's in their medicine cabinets.
"If they aren't using (the pills), please go to these places and get rid of them," Smith urged.
Last year, during a takeback held at the John C. Harris Community Center, the CCSO collected 14,890 pills from the community. This year's take back will be different in that anyone or any business can drop off pills anonymously. Maylee explained officers had to count the pills and record names previously. Once the pills are recovered, the DEA will collect them from CCSO and incinerate them.
Tony Cox, manager at Callaway 2 Water District, said he is not aware of any prescription drug contamination in Callaway's waters. He said the county's wells are tested once a month for contaminates and never fail inspection. However, he said the tests do not look for prescription drug traces.
Cox said it's important for residents not to throw pills into the water system, because if the surface water is contaminated, it could percolate down and contaminate the ground water.
Rayburn explained waste water treatment facilities are not designed to take pharmaceuticals out of the water. The MRWA also warns people that trashing the pills means they wind up in a landfill where they could leach into the ground.
Rayburn applauds those who take their unused meds to the proper authorities.
"They're taking the action for their community, and they're helping out environmentally," he said. "Not only are they keeping these things off the streets, but they're keeping them out of the water, too."
Another option for those wanting to dispose of pills is to drop them off at the Fulton Fire Department. Every second and fourth Saturday of the month, through the Household Hazardous Waste program, the FFD collects unwanted pills. Please call 573-592-3150 for an appointment before bringing prescription drugs to the FFD.