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Novel Program to Curb

Pollution from Drugs

by Jennifer Gentile


Toilets and garbage cans are not

places for unwanted medications,

and with a new program in Vacaville, residents can dispose of them properly.


Within the past week or so, according

to Recycling Coordinator Kari Holmes,

a secure white collection container appeared in the lobby of the Vacaville Police Department. Holmes said the

U.S. Postal Service donated the container, which was refurbished for

the collection of pharmaceuticals.


The collection receptacle, although a different color, is still identifiable as a former mailbox.


"I started looking into this in September of 2006, after San Mateo started a program," Holmes said. "There is currently not an avenue for disposal, and this provides a safe and secure way."


One of the goals of the program, she said, is to prevent drugs from being flushed or thrown away, thus finding their way into landfills or the water supply. Other objectives are to reduce instances of recreational drug use and potentially harmful medication mistakes.


According to Holmes, the medications will be taken to a licensed facility and incinerated. The program will not accept needles or illegal substances.


When San Mateo tried the program for a week in 2005, before implementing it permanently in September of 2006, the county reportedly collected 235 pounds of drugs. According to a news release about the program, these ranged from over-the-counter medicines to prescription-strength painkillers.

Drug pollution is a matter of significant concern to environmental experts, according to the release.

"Preliminary evidence already exists showing detectable levels of human medicines in some fish and frogs," the release states. "Long-term environmental effects remain under study."

The San Mateo program now has four collection points, three at police stations and one at the Sheriff's Office. Bill Chiang, legislative aide to Supervisor Adrienne Tissier, said, "It has been very well received."

"Our program has worked very well," Chiang said. "I'd say we've collected about 200 pounds of pharmaceuticals (since September)."

Amid frequent news reports of teen "pharm" parties and the harmful effects of medications in the water supply, Tissier said the more communities that address the issue, the better.

"People are really catching on to this," she said, adding, "I'm really pleased to see Vacaville tackling it as well."

Holmes said it is too early to tell how the program will be received locally. She said the city will try to generate awareness and participation, through a public outreach campaign consisting of press releases, postings on the city's Web site, and print advertisements.

"We expect to see higher volumes collected once that begins," Holmes said.

Residents who drop off their medications are asked to first black out or remove any personal information from the containers. Collection hours at the VPD are Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.


January 7.2007





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