Drugs in our Drinking Water?

June 3, 2003

Unused medicines ending up in natural waterways are contaminating the local environment, according to county and state health departments, reports Stacey Creasy of Pilot News.

"Some communities are literally finding prescription medicines in their drinking water," said Mike Good, director of the Marshall County Solid Waste District located in Plymouth, Indiana.

For decades, the common practice for many people is to flush or wash old/unwanted prescription drugs down the drain. Good said treatment plants are not able to break down the drugs, which means they are discharged into the wastewater.

"Most treated wastewater blends with surface water somewhere," Good added. "Water plants also are not equipped to handle prescription drugs. The medicine winds up in the water in some areas."

St. Joseph County, Indiana, is giving area residents an alternative to dumping medicines.

Health officials told Creasy one of the worst things residents can do is flush them down the toilet or throw them in the trash.

South Bend Police Captain Ed Friend says flushing them down the toilet can damage a septic system and local waterways. That is why nine sites have been set up in St. Joseph County for people to drop off their old unwanted pills.

"The Solid Waste District Board discussed it," Good said. "They instructed me to contact our insurance carrier to see what impact it might have on our coverage. I will provide the carrier with a potential list of medicines so they can determine if there will be any impact."

Good said if the collection site eventually accepts medicines, the drugs will be old enough to have lost their potency. The Solid Waste District may also look at a policy where controlled substances will not be accepted.

Source: Pilot News

Image by Burnham RNG, courtesy twentytwo & brand.