Drug Collection Program Protects Water Quality

Posted at 4:11 PM, Apr 12, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-12 20:14:07-04

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) announced that as of April, they had already collected more than 11,000 lbs. of unwanted pharmaceuticals that could have otherwise entered Tennessee's waterways. 

The collection of drugs has been done through providing more safe and convenient options for citizens to dispose of unwanted medication. 

One of the main methods has been through pharmaceutical disposal bins, placed in every county in Tennessee, with multiple locations in the Nashville area, including many of the police precincts. 

“We don’t want people flushing meds, we don’t want them to go into the trash, and then we also don’t want children to take medications inadvertently, and this is a way to remove those from the environment and dispose of them properly," said Lori Munkeboe, director of the Office of Sustainable Practices with TDEC.

Flushing or washing drugs down the sink allows chemicals to enter the watershed or groundwater, where they can affect drinking water and stream ecosystems. 

Wastewater treatment plants are not designed to adequately remove chemicals found in drugs, and drugs that end up landfills can also end up in the watershed. 

While no research has shown that improper disposal of medication has impacted Tennessee's water, TDEC said this is a great method to prevent any issues prior to them happening. 

In the program's first year in 2012, working with local law enforcement, the DEA, TBI, and other agencies, 15,905 lbs. of medication was collected, increasing to more than 82,000 lbs. in 2016. 

“People want to do the right thing." Munkeboe explained. "We get calls in our office about what do we do with this (medication), we know we shouldn’t flush it, we know we shouldn’t throw it in the trash, what should we do with it? This gives the citizens of Tennessee and option to dispose of their unwanted medications.” 

Medications accepted through Tennessee's collection program include liquid prescriptions, medicated ointment, pills, over-the-counter medications, and pet medications.

Click here for a map of bin locations statewide, and to learn more about the program, you can visit TDEC's website