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Waste water treatment facility urges people to properly dispose of pharmaceuticals

The Water Reclamation Plant in Rochester is urging people to not flush unwanted or unused drugs, as it can negatively impact waterways.

Posted: Jul 23, 2018 11:28 PM

ROCHESTER, Minn. - Most people have taken a prescription in their life. However, if you don't know how to properly get rid of unused and unwanted drugs, it can be dangerous to the environment.

Flushing them down the toilet is a simple way to dispose of the drugs, but it's not recommended. Aside from human waste, that's how pharmaceuticals get in waterways and it can take a toll on the environment.

Joyce Stromberg, of Rochester, has prescriptions she picks up. When it comes to disposing of unwanted medication, she knows not to flush them down the toilet.

"I'm well aware that they will contaminate the water supply," Stromberg said.

However, it's not common knowledge to everyone. A recent study from the US Geological Survey found trace amounts of pharmaceuticals in waterways, including the Zumbro River. This indicates people may still be flushing their drugs.

David Lane is the environmental manager at the Water Reclamation Plant in Rochester. He said the study's findings aren't good, because pharmaceuticals in waterways can have a negative impact on the aquatic environment.

When researchers took samples, they found small traces of pharmaceuticals in several Minnesota waterways. This leaves the local reclamation plant with more questions than answers, like what that means for the facility.

"Even if there's just trace, minute amounts left in the affluent, they're worried that could cause some problems in the environment," Lane said.

Right now, waste water goes through ten steps at the plant before it's brought to the Zumbro River. There's only so much the advanced treatment facility can do with traces so small, meaning it comes down to people.

"I don't know if many people are aware of how to properly dispose of medications," Stromber said, "and I think that the information should be shared so people are disposing of them in the safest way possible."

Instead of flushing pharmaceuticals, experts advise people to mix them with undesirables like coffee grounds or kitty litter and seal them before putting in the trash. People also have the option of bringing them to a prescription drug collection box, which can be found at most law enforcement centers.

Every April, there's a National Prescription Drug Take Back Day that gives people even more options for places to drop off their unused and unwanted medications.

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