Thursday, February 07, 2008

WLSSD to Host Collection Event for Unwanted Medication

The Western Lake Superior Sanitary District will host a free collection event for unwanted or expired medications at its regional Household Hazardous Waste Facility on Saturday, February 23rd from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. The “Medicine Cabinet Clean-Out Day” is a one-day event offering residents free disposal of unwanted medications in a manner that’s safe, convenient and environmentally sound

At Minnesota’s first-ever medication collection event held last October at WLSSD, residents brought in over 250 pounds of unwanted pills and other medication, filling two large barrels. This medication was disposed of though a hazardous waste handler, preventing the release of these compounds into the environment.

“The first collection event really showed us that there is a lot of unwanted medication lingering in medicine cabinets all over the WLSSD area,” said Gina Temple-Rhodes, WLSSD Environmental Program Coordinator. “Residents told us they had been storing the medications for years because they didn’t know what else to do with them. This collection event offers an easy, safe answer to the disposal question.”

Residents may bring their own or a family member’s unwanted or expired medication to the event for disposal. Drop-off is free and confidential. Residents will use the drive-through area at the Household Hazardous Waste facility during this special event. The facility is located at 2626 Courtland Street in Duluth.

“Unwanted medication should not be flushed or poured down the drain,” said WLSSD Executive Director Kurt N.W. Soderberg. “Although many of us were taught to dispose of medicines this way, we now know that flushing them is not a good idea.”

"Wastewater treatment plants were not designed to remove pharmaceutical substances from wastewater,” Soderberg continued. “Proper disposal of medication helps protect water quality in our region.”

Studies around the United States have found hormones and other pharmaceutical substances in rivers and streams. When medication is flushed, it travels to wastewater treatment plants. Although some medicines break down in treatment, others persist and are discharged into waterways. In the Duluth region, residual medicines can enter the St. Louis River and Lake Superior. Pharmaceutical substances can adversely affect fish and other aquatic life.

Temple-Rhodes recommends that residents attending the event:
Bring prescription or over-the-counter medication in its original container with all information about the medication visible to assist with sorting. Names and addresses may be covered or scratched out.

Keep medications out of reach of children while waiting for and transporting material to the event.

Keep needles or other medical sharps separate and properly packaged for safe disposal.

WLSSD can only accept medication during special events due to US drug laws. The special events will employ pharmacists and law enforcement officers to ensure safe and proper sorting and disposal of all medications. Residents who are unable to attend a disposal event may dispose of unwanted medications in the garbage after properly preparing the medication per Minnesota Pollution Control Agency recommendations. These recommendations can be found at

This event and two more collection events this year are funded in part by the Coastal Zone Management Act, by NOAA’s Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, in conjunction with Minnesota’s Lake Superior Coastal Program. More information is available at

Western Lake Superior Sanitary District provides award-winning wastewater and solid waste services to residents, businesses and industries within its 530 square mile legislative boundaries in Southern St. Louis and northern Carlton counties, and is a nationally recognized leader in pollution prevention.

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