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From The LI Water Conference: July 13, 2011

Keep Our Drinking Water Safe: Don’t Flush Medication Down the Toilet

With almost 3 million Long Islanders living above their water supply, the concern for groundwater contamination is real.

Flushing unwanted prescription drugs and medications was once the acceptable, and even recommended, method of disposal. However, in recent years, it has been found that this practice is dangerous to the environment. To ensure the safety of our environment and groundwater systems, the Long Island Water Conference wants to remind you not to flush unwanted or expired medications.

Ecologists have found in recent years that flushing medications can have serious effects on fish and other aquatic life. The drugs find their way into area lakes, streams, bays and, in some extreme cases, groundwater systems. The medications interact with aquatic life in harmful ways.

Keeping these drugs out of waste-water systems will ensure that these chemicals will not end up in Long Island’s water resources. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy recently created guidelines for drugs and medication disposal. This includes taking unused, unneeded, or expired prescription drugs out of their original containers and mixing them with an undesirable substance, such as used coffee grounds or kitty litter, and putting them in impermeable, non-descript containers, such as empty cans or sealable bags.

Many Town and Village officials throughout the Island have taken the lead in sponsoring drug take-back programs that promote safe disposal of various medications and hazardous household waste. Taking advantage of these programs is not only great for the environment, but great for local public safety in combating drug problems. Additionally, you may want to contact local hospitals that will place unused medications in their bio-hazard containers for incineration.

There are many options for disposing of unused or expired medication that do not have harmful effects on our water system and the environment. Be aware of these options the next time you want to get rid of old medications. Keep Long Island’s drinking water safe!