Keeping Pharmaceuticals Out of Our Water: Drop-Off Event on April 28 in Mahtomedi

My medicine cabinet at home is like a time capsule that perfectly preserves the remnants of every illness and ailment my husband and I have experienced over the past 20 years. There are Vicodin from his Achilles tendon tear in 2002, an antihistamine box labeled in Spanish from the time I was stung by a wasp in Spain in 2008, and a bottle of something labeled in Portugese that was given to us by a friend when Gary caught a vicious stomach bug in Brazil in 2011. When we moved to Stillwater seven years ago, I made a minimal effort to clear out the excess by consolidating five half-full bottles of Robitussin and several partial boxes of allergy medicine. Nonetheless, a frightening array of prescription and over-the-counter medications still lurks behind that mirrored door.

Old and unused medicines in the home can pose a risk for accidental poisoning or even theft leading to drug abuse. At the same time, research has shown that medication put in the trash or flushed down the toilet or sink can pollute our water and harm fish and wildlife. One problem is that our wastewater treatment plants, which are very effective at cleaning wastewater from our homes, are not equipped to remove pharmaceuticals from the water. So, while the water discharged from these plants into the St. Croix and Mississippi Rivers may be clean enough to drink, it might also be laced with ibuprofen, antibiotics and other chemicals. Because liquid from landfills is usually collected and sent to wastewater treatment plants, disposing of old medicine in the trash can create problems as well.

On Saturday, April 28 from 10am-1pm, Washington County will hold a Household Prescription Drug “Take Back” Event at the Mahtomedi District Education Center (1520 Mahtomedi Ave.). During the event, the county will accept pills and capsules, blister packs, creams and gels, unused Epipens, inhalers and patches, IV bags and vials, liquids, powders, and sprays. Drop-off is anonymous and no ID is required. It is also not necessary to cross off your name or remove medications from their original containers. Needles, used Epipens, syringes, lancets, thermometers, and liquid chemo drugs will not be accepted at this event but can be dropped off at the Environmental Center in Woodbury (4039 Cottage Grove Dr.).

In addition to the one-day collection event in Mahtomedi, Washington County has four year-round drop boxes that are open Monday – Friday, 8am-4:30 at the Forest Lake, Cottage Grove, Stillwater and Woodbury Service Centers. Medications collected by the county are taken under law enforcement escort to a waste-to-energy facility in Minnesota that is licensed to burn this type of waste.

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