June 29, 2008

People Clean Out Medicine Cabinets for Clean Water

By Bridget Flynn, The Pantagraph, Bloomington, Ill.

Jun. 29--BLOOMINGTON -- Getting all drugs out of the drinking water was the goal Saturday of the Pontiac Prescription Drug Disposal (P2D2) Green Day at OSF St. Joseph Medical Center, Bloomington.

Local residents had the chance to clean out their medicine cabinets and drop off expired or unused drugs in the southeast parking lot of the hospital campus.

Drivers pulled up and dropped off bags of pharmaceuticals for Mike Novario, the hospital's pharmacy director, to sort. Novario separated them into containers for prescription, liquid and over-the-counter medications.

Bloomington police spokesman David White collected the controlled substances. White lifted the trunk lid of his car and revealed a box full of prescription drugs such as oxycodone, fentanyl, morphine and codeine.

"I got a lot more than I thought I'd get," he said.

Paul Ritter, science teacher at Pontiac Township High School, developed the P2D2 program in January with his ecology students. He and his students have given presentations to city officials and pharmaceutical representatives about the effects of drugs on the water supply, especially when old or unneeded prescriptions are dumped down the toilet and into the water cycle.

He implemented a disposal program with Pontiac pharmacies. The program has spread to Flanagan, and groups in Michigan, Washington and Kentucky have expressed interest in it.

Ritter has said 350 pounds of medicine have been disposed of in Pontiac alone.

"It became a giant puzzle," Ritter said. "Each town, no matter how big or small, had to have a program that is custom-made for them. ... Each individual program was tailor-made for the community."

Sara Lepard, incoming senior at Pontiac Township High School, witnessed Ritter's passion for the drug disposal program while she was in his earth science class.

"He had moments when he would get emotional about how hard he wanted us to work because he knew that it is that important," she said.

A costume character named Pill Bottle Phil greeted guests. Children received free balloons and could listen to their heartbeat. Free blood pressure and glucose checks and body fat analyses also were offered.

Novario estimated at the end of the event that the hospital had collected two 55-gallon drums of pharmaceuticals. Novario said they would be taken to an incinerator owned by Clean Harbors Environmental Services in the Chicago area.

The Green Day was not the last chance to dispose of drugs in an environmentally friendly way. Novario said Eastland Pharmacy, Atrium Pharmacy at BroMenn Regional Medical Center, Merle Pharmacy and Chenoa Pharmacy will accept all prescription drug waste during business hours.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, through a waste management contractor, will collect and dispose of the pharmaceuticals and pay for the disposal.


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Copyright (c) 2008, The Pantagraph, Bloomington, Ill.

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