Earth Day 2018: Keep Drugs Out of The Water Cycle

Earth Day 2018: Keep Drugs Out of The Water Cycle

  • This article, contributed by Kane County Resource Management Coordinator Jessica Mino and Kane County Recycling Coordinator Jennifer Jarland, is part of a 15-part series of tips on how to make a positive environmental impact in Kane County in preparation for Earth Day on April 22. 

Tip #4: Properly Dispose of Prescription Drugs

Saturday, April 28, is National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. This day is particularly important to water districts because it means that less medication will end up down the drain and at wastewater treatment plants. Please drop off your unused medication at the Fox Metro Water Reclamation District, one of the following locations, or search your zip code here.

Kane County Locations:

  • Highland Park CVS, L.L.C., 1500 Lincoln Highway, St. Charles, IL 60174
  • Walgreen Co., 1221 N Lake St., Aurora, IL 60506
  • Techni Med INC, 340 Marshall Ave. Unit 100, Aurora, IL 60506
  • Bond Drug Company of Illinois, L.L.C., 1799 Douglas Road, Montgomery, IL 60538
  • Walgreen Co., 1700 Larkin Ave., Elgin, IL 60123
  • Sugar Grove Police Department, 10 Municipal Dr, Sugar Grove, IL 60554
  • Aurora Police Department, 1200 E. Indian Trail, Aurora, IL 60505
  • Kane County Coroner’s Office, Building G, Kane County Government Center, 719 S. Batavia, Ave., Geneva, IL 60134
  • St. Charles Police Department, 2900 Foxfield Road, St. Charles, IL 60174
  • Kane County Sheriff’s Office, 37 IL-38, St. Charles, IL 60174

Why Can’t Prescription Drugs Be Flushed?

Drugs and pharmaceutical products have saved and improved countless lives. But these drugs need to be disposed of carefully. If not, they pollute the environment or harm human health and wildlife.

Anything flushed or disposed of down a sewer drain ends up at a water treatment plant. This process removes debris, suspended matter, and disinfects the end-product before being discharged to our surface waters.

However, prescription drugs and personal care products in wastewater pass through this system without being captured. The PPCPs end up being released to the waterways along with the rest of the water discharged from the wastewater treatment plant.

Now, the PPCPs have been detected in U.S. rivers, waterways, and groundwater, and have become a contaminant to aquatic systems. The United States Environmental Protection Agency has labeled PPCPs as Contaminants of Emerging Concern.

The U.S. EPA explains that, “These chemicals have features that require additional consideration when applying existing ambient water quality criteria for the protection of aquatic life.”

The pharmaceuticals, particularly those containing hormones, have a large impact on fish, causing reproduction issues and a greater chance of death. Read more about this from the U.S. EPA’s blog. Other fish, mussels, and seabirds consume the contaminants as they move up the food chain.

And ultimately, these contaminants reach us again, as we consume aquatic life and drinking water from these same waterways. As the Fox Metro Water Reclamation District states, “The risk to humans and animals of long-term exposure to these contaminants in drinking water is unknown.”

Similar to wastewater treatment plants, drinking water treatments plants are currently not equipped to remove contaminants resulting from prescription drugs, and PPCPs emerge in our drinking water.

As a result, all living things along this cycle are now unknowingly consuming prescription drugs and personal care products.

This also applies to putting the undesirable wastes into the trash, which risks contaminating groundwater.

So YES, it is important to properly dispose of medications! DON’T FLUSH and DON’T TRASH; Turn prescription drugs into a proper medication take-back program.

Get the complete list of Drop-off Locations and Kane County details here.

Read the ‘Countdown to Earth Day’ Series!