March 18, 2009 Prescription drugs in the water supply? Sounds like something out of a science fiction thriller but unfortunately it's all too real.
Clinics, hospitals and other medical facilities are mandated by federal law to dispose of unused medications in the event of a person's death. While there is no standard for disposal, common practice has been to flush the drugs down toilets—and ultimately into waterways.
The obvious problem with this practice has prompted states to seek a solution from the federal government.
And part of that solution is now in place, thanks to the efforts of area resident Gail St. Laurent.Gail witnessed the flushing disposal of thousands of dollars of powerful pain medications following her mother's death. She was troubled enough by the practice to mention it to U.S. Rep. Candice Miller's staff. Once apprised of the situation, Miller was equally disturbed. What resulted is the Water Quality Investment Act, recently passed in the House of Representatives. The Act allots $18.7 billion over a five year period for wastewater infrastructure projects and water quality improvement. It also provides $13.8 billion over five years in grants to the Clean Water State Revolving Funds, a mechanism for local governments like ours to improve their wastewater systems. Some $750 million is also set aside to clean up contaminated sediments in the Great Lakes.
This is an important step in an ongoing dilemma regarding disposal of prescription medication. We hope Miller and other lawmakers will continue to work on a viable and safe disposal practice.