DEC Law Enforcement Collects and Destroys 1,080 Pounds of Unused and Expired Medications.
New York, NY - April 25, 2018 - The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) collected 1,808 pounds of pharmaceutical medications during DEC's annual Long Island Pharmaceutical Take Back event, Region 1 Director Carrie Meek Gallagher announced today. A total of 24 long-term healthcare facilities from Nassau and Suffolk counties participated in the program, which collects and responsibly destroys unused or expired pharmaceuticals. More than two tons of pharmaceuticals have been collected since the program began in 2014.
"Health care facilities such as nursing homes and other long-term care facilities sometimes resort to 'flushing'" unused medications," said Director Gallagher. "DEC will continue our efforts to stop unused and expired medications from entering our waterways and we are grateful to all the facilities that chose to enthusiastically participate in this year's take-back day."
The DEC program is in its fourth year and is designed to reduce the amount of pharmaceuticals that are "flushed" by facilities and can end up in Long Island's groundwater, bays, and estuaries. Pharmaceuticals have been detected at low levels in New York waterways and Long Island's shallow groundwater.
Twenty-four facilities made up primarily of nursing, extended care, and rehabilitation centers, participated in this year's collection. Each facility stored unused and expired medications until DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) visited on Wednesday, April 11, for Nassau facilities, and Wednesday, April 18, for Suffolk facilities. The stored medications were brought to the Covanta Waste-to-Energy Plant in Hempstead and Huntington, which volunteered its services to incinerate the products.
"Covanta is proud to provide the safe disposal of drugs allowing us to both assist in the prevention of drug abuse and in the protection of our waters," said Paul Stauder, president, Covanta Environmental Solutions. "We are also happy to join with the Department of Environmental Conservation in their important work to end the practice of flushing drugs by residents and institutions. Our Energy-from-Waste facilities are equipped with state-of-the-art combustion controls and air pollution control equipment to ensure the secure destruction of these drugs in an environmentally sound manner."
Covanta's Energy-from-Waste facilities in Westbury, East Northport, West Babylon, and Ronkonkoma serve the municipal solid waste management needs of thousands of Long Island households and businesses, converting nearly 5,000 tons of post-recycled municipal solid waste each day into clean energy to power over 100,000 homes.
Prescription drug take back efforts began in the last few years. Prior to these initiatives the normal disposal practice was to flush unwanted drugs. With technological advances in analytical techniques, it is now possible to detect very low levels of drugs in surface water and groundwater. Some drugs pass largely unaltered through wastewater treatment plants and enter rivers and other waterways. Drugs from heath care facilities, pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities and farms can also find their way into the water.
Flushed medications have been found in New York lakes, rivers and streams, which can negatively affect the waterways. A nationwide study done in 1999 and 2000 by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) found low levels of drugs such as antibiotics, hormones, contraceptives and steroids in 80 percent of rivers and streams tested. Medications adversely affect fish and other aquatic wildlife and increase the development of drug-resistant bacteria.