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Wednesday, April 15, 2009 02:34 am

Only fools flush down

County asks residents to keep drugs out of the water system

Just when you thought it was safe for your drugs to go in the water... .

“We ask that residents no longer flush their meds,” says Angela Harris, Sangamon County’s recycling coordinator.

Harris acknowledges that for many years, flushing was the recommended method for disposal of pharmaceuticals and personal care products. However, there is now growing concern about the environmental effects of pharmaceutical drugs in the water system.

A 2008 Associated Press investigation uncovered residues of medical drugs in fish caught near wastewater treatment plants in five U.S. cities. In response, the Environmental Protection Agency called for research into the human impact of consumption of small amounts of medicines in drinking water over long periods of time.

Springfield’s utility, City Water, Light and Power, subsequently conducted testing of Lake Springfield. That analysis revealed small quantities of drugs in treated drinking water. CWLP officials determined the amounts to be in concentrations too low to present a public health hazard.

Nevertheless, local officials are taking steps to prevent problems from arising, Harris says. On Saturday, April 25, local residents will be able to drop off expired and unwanted medications at the state fairgrounds from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. This includes medicated aerosol products, shampoos, soaps and creams, as well as over-the-counter drugs and asthma inhalers.

Illegal drugs and controlled substances, hazardous wastes, mercury thermometers, non-pressurized cylinders and hypodermic needles will not be accepted. Participants are also asked to remove address labels from pill bottles.

Sangamon County is also looking for pharmacies willing to serve as a permanent drop-off location as well as 21-years-old-and-up volunteers at the fairgrounds event, which is cosponsored by the Illinois EPA, CWLP, Illinois-Indian Sea Grant and Illinois Lake Management Association.

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