This just in!
March 8, 2010
Subject: FW: [Pharmwaste] PA collection event article
This is why we must design and build for zero sewage. We have the answer and we are installing it all across the country
Task force aims to keep unwanted medications from waterways
The Southwestern PA Household Hazardous Waste Task Force wants your unwanted
pharmaceuticals, an effort it hopes will spare rivers from contamination.
The May 15 collection will be the task force's first in Allegheny County.
It might be tempting to flush old prescription, over-the-counter and
veterinary medications down the toilet when they expire or no longer are
useful. But Michael Stepaniak, the task force's environmental program
coordinator, said doing so threatens fish and wildlife that depend on the
region's waterways, which are a source of drinking water for the Pittsburgh
"We want to not only help protect the environment ... but also make people
aware that flushing things down a toilet doesn't mean the hazard has gone
away," he said. "It's just moved."
Dave Mazza, regional director of the Pennsylvania Resources Council, the task
force's administrator, said conventional wastewater treatment cannot
effectively eliminate pharmaceutical compounds from water.
"On a national level ... upwards of 200 million pounds of pharmaceutical waste
is being produced every year," Mazza said. "The need for collection events(like this) is evident."
Over-the-counter medications will be transported to Cincinnati, where they
will be incinerated. Controlled substances will be burned in a police
State and federal environmental groups for years have studied how trace
amounts of household chemicals and prescription and illicit drugs flushed from
homes end up in fish and wildlife that depend on Pennsylvania's waterways.
Pharmaceuticals in the water have been blamed for severe reproductive problems
in many types of fish. For example, the endangered razorback sucker and male
fathead minnow have been found with lower sperm counts and damaged sperm,
while some walleyes and male carp have taken on female traits.
"Flushing them down the toilet ... kills some bacteria in waterways and not
others," said Conrad Volz, director of the Center for Healthy Environments and
Communities at the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health. "It
changes the ecology of our rivers in ways we can't even predict."
Since 2003, the task force has conducted 39 collections in eight counties and
disposed of nearly 2 million pounds of household chemicals, Stepaniak said.
The Southwestern PA Household Hazardous Waste Task Force will collect unwanted
medications from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 15 in the Hampton Community Center on
Cost will be $3 per person. Advance registration is required. For details or
to register, call 412-488-7452 or visit swpahhw.org. A professionalcontractor, law enforcement officials and licensed pharmacists will be on hand to ensure that medications are handled appropriately.