Over 2,000 Pounds of Unwanted Medications Collected in 2018

Flushing medications down toilets used to be recommended, until researchers found that doing so was contaminating drinking water. Group for the East End

The East End Medication Disposal Program, a partnership with the Group for the East End and seven East End police departments, collected a whopping 2,102 pounds of unused medications last year, it was announced on Monday. The program has collected more than 8,000 pounds of substances since its inception in 2013, the group said.

Unwanted and unused prescription and over-the-counter medications were collected in drop boxes at various stations, such as the East Hampton Town Police Department’s headquarters in Wainscott, throughout the year. The drop boxes, which receive support from Suffolk County’s Drinking Water Protection Program, allow residents to dispose of leftover medications safely and anonymously in an effort to keep these potential pollutants out of drinking water. Studies have shown that when medications are flushed down the toilet — once a recommended practice — or discarded in the trash, they can contaminate drinking water, as well as bays and harbors.

The 2,102 pounds collected in 2018 include 90 pounds from Sag Harbor, 170 pounds from Shelter Island, 697 pounds from Southold, 260 pounds from East Hampton Town, 300 pounds from East Hampton Village, 285 pounds from Westhampton Beach, and 300 pounds from Southampton. 

The amount collected appears to be increasing. There were 1,872 pounds collected in 2017 and 2,149 pounds between 2015 and 2016 (the totals were not separated by year then). Approximately 1,851 pounds were collected from 2013 to 2014.

Properly disposing of medications in the drop boxes also prevents drug misuse, abuse, and harm to children and pets. After substances are discarded in a drop box, police take the medications to the Covanta incinerator in East Northport. Covanta does not charge a fee to the police departments. 

“The volume of medications collected in the 2018 program demonstrates both the significance of pharmaceutical products as a potential source of groundwater pollution and the growing public interest in keeping these products out of the waste stream for public safety and environmental reasons,” said Bob DeLuca, president of Group for the East End. “We are very proud of all our local community members who have taken the time to properly dispose of their unused or expired pharmaceuticals to help protect our environment and public safety, and we look forward to continuing growth in this program in the years ahead.”

A separate program run by the Riverhead Community Coalition for Safe and Drug-Free Youth joined with the Riverhead Police Department to collect 1,440 pounds in 2018, according to the Group for the East End. The coalition has collected 5,884 pounds of medications since installing a drop box in August of 2014. 

A Big Red Med Disposal Box, part of another program, was recently placed at the East Hampton Town Police Department’s Montauk precinct

More information on what medications and items can be discarded and where can be found online