In response to rising rates of prescription drug abuse and the need for safe drug disposal programs, local law enforcement and the federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) are coordinating a nationwide drug “take back” day on Saturday, April 30, 2011 between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
This one-day event will provide free, anonymous collection of unwanted or expired medicines, including controlled substances, at the following locations:
- Pierce County Sheriff’s Department South Hill Precinct, 271 John Bananola Way E., Puyallup.
- University Place Public Safety Building, 3631 Drexler Dr. W., University Place.
- Edgewood Police Department collection site, 2800 Milton Way, Milton in the Albertson’s parking lot.
There are 22 “take back” sites in Pierce County that operate year-round. Most are law enforcement agencies, but some pharmacies also participate. Only law enforcement agencies can accept controlled substances. The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department has posted a list of all 22 sites online: www.tpchd.org/environment/waste-management/medicine-return-program/drop-off-locations/.
Take back programs are a good way to reduce the amount of medicines entering the environment. The DEA conducted the first National Prescription Drug Take Back Day on Sept. 25, 2010 in coordination with 3,000 law enforcement agencies throughout the United States. Citizens turned in more than 121 tons of pills, removing potentially dangerous prescription drugs and controlled substances from their medicine cabinets. Nearly 9,000 pounds were collected in the state of Washington.
The DEA says many Americans do not know how to properly dispose of their unused medicines, often flushing them down the toilet or throwing them away – both potential safety and health hazards. Drugs flushed down the toilet will eventually flow into water bodies like Puget Sound because most medicines are not removed by wastewater treatment processes or septic systems. Even medicines placed in the garbage could remain chemically active and escape into the environment when landfill liquids are sent to a wastewater treatment plant. Medicines in the garbage can present a risk to sanitation workers.
“This is an opportunity to promote public awareness and environmental responsibility regarding unused pharmaceuticals, helping to keep these drugs out of the sewer,” said Tim Ramsaur, wastewater utility manager with Pierce County Public Works and Utilities. “There is mounting evidence that this program can play an important role in public safety and in improving the quality of wastewater before it is discharged to the environment.”
Wastewater treatment systems are effective at removing solids and harmful bacteria, but were not designed to remove pharmaceuticals. A 2008 study by the Washington Department of Ecology and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency measured pharmaceuticals in five municipal wastewater treatment plants that discharge into bodies of water in the state of Washington. The study found pharmaceuticals were present in treated wastewater and biosolids from all five plants.
More information is available online:
DEA National Take Back Initiative: www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_disposal/takeback/
Programs in Washington state: takebackyourmeds.org/