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For Release: Friday, March 29, 2019

DEC Announces 320 Pounds of Waste Pharmaceuticals Collected During Annual Long Island Take Back Days

DEC Law Enforcement Collects and Destroys More than Two Tons of Unused and Expired Medications Since 2014

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) collected 320 pounds of pharmaceutical medications during DEC's annual Long Island Pharmaceutical Take Back event, Region 1 Director Carrie Meek Gallagher announced today. A total of 27 long-term healthcare facilities from Nassau and Suffolk counties participated in the program, which collects and responsibly destroys unused or expired pharmaceuticals. More than two tons of pharmaceuticals have been collected since the program began in 2014.

"Health care facilities like nursing homes and other long-term care facilities sometimes resort to flushing unused medications," said Director Gallagher. "DEC will continue our efforts to prevent unused and expired medications from entering our waterways and we are grateful to all of the facilities that chose to participate in this year's take-back day."

The DEC program is in its fifth year and is designed to reduce the number of pharmaceuticals that are flushed or unsafely disposed by facilities and can end up in Long Island's groundwater, bays, and estuaries. Pharmaceuticals have been detected at low levels in New York waterways and Long Island's shallow groundwater.

Twenty-seven facilities made up primarily of nursing, extended care, and rehabilitation centers, participated in this year's collection. Each facility stored unused and expired medications until DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) visited on Wednesday, March 27, in Suffolk County, and Thursday, March 28, in Nassau County. The stored medications were brought to the Covanta Waste-to-Energy Plant in Huntington, which volunteered its services to incinerate the products.

"Covanta is proud to provide the safe disposal of drugs which assists in the prevention of drug abuse and in the protection of water on Long Island," said Paul Stauder, president, Covanta Environmental Solutions. "The work the Department of Environmental Conversation is spearheading throughout the state is critical to ending the practice of flushing drugs by residents and institutions. By destroying medication at our Energy-from-Waste facilities, the state is also ensuring the secure destruction of these drugs in an environmentally sound manner."

In addition to collection events, DEC encourages New Yorkers to use medication collection box locations, which can be found by visiting DEC's website and clicking on the NYS Medication Drop Box Locations map.

DEC launched its Pilot Pharmaceutical Take Back program in May 2018, and installed 250 medication collection boxes at retail pharmacies, hospitals, and long-term care facilities all across New York State. Since May 2018, DEC has collected and destroyed 15,229 lbs. of unwanted medications through the pilot program. DEC plans to install an additional 230 medication collection boxes under Phase 2 of the pilot program. Prior to these initiatives, many facilities flushed unwanted or waste drugs. With technological advances in analytical techniques, it is now possible to detect very low levels of drugs in surface water and groundwater. Some drugs pass largely unaltered through wastewater treatment plants and enter rivers and other waterways. Flushed medications have been found in New York lakes, rivers, and streams, which can negatively affect the waterways. A nationwide study conducted by the United States Geological Survey found low levels of drugs such as antibiotics, hormones, contraceptives, and steroids in 80 percent of rivers and streams tested. Medications adversely affect fish and other aquatic wildlife and increase the development of drug-resistant bacteria.

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