Thursday, February 10, 2011

Alton debuts drug disposal box

ALTON - The city launched a drug disposal program Tuesday that will allow people to get rid of unwanted or expired medications safely.  "The disposal box will make a positive impact on our local water supplies," said Karla Olson Teasley, president of Illinois-American Water Co.  A kickoff ceremony was held to initiate the use of the pharmaceutical drop-off box in the lobby of the Donald E. Sandidge Alton Law Enforcement Center.  Teasley said the box provides an easy way for the public to dispose of unwanted medications properly, plus keep them out of the hands of children.  The box is similar to a mailbox, bolted to the floor and in range of a surveillance camera inside the police station. The expired or unwanted medications can be over-the-counter or prescription.  The unwanted or expired medications will be incinerated, which is the Environmental Protection Agency's recommended approach for pharmaceutical disposal.  "We found that it takes more than just one person or one organization to make these kinds of programs happen," Teasley said.  The project is a collaboration among Illinois-American Water, the Alton Police Department, Alton Mayor Tom Hoechst and LeClaire Family Pharmacy (formerly Massey Pharmacy) of North Alton.  "We are protecting two of our most valuable resources - our children and our water," Hoechst said. "It's important to keep drugs out of water systems."  Hoescht said that less than 1 percent of the world's water is fit for human consumption.  "It goes to show you that we should maintain and preserve the integrity of our water system," he said. "Without it, we cannot survive."  Karen Cotton, spokeswoman for Illinois-American, said the Alton drop-off box is the company's second such container in Southern Illinois and the 13th statewide. A 14th pharmaceutical box is in the works for Belleville, but plans are not finalized, she said.  "Our goal is to establish a greatly expanded network of secure pharmaceutical collection centers throughout the state," Cotton said.  Olivia Dorothy, river conservation liaison with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, said Pontiac Township High School developed the P2D2 medication disposal program that has served as a model. She said the program accomplishes two goals - it keeps drugs off the streets and children safe, and it protects our drinking water.  "I really hope that someday we see this program in all Illinois communities," Dorothy said.  Cotton said some 130,000 pounds of unwanted medications have been collected at the 12 initial boxes and then incinerated to date.  The event in Alton was held in conjunction with National Take Back Day, which is a program of the U.S. Department of Justice and its Drug Enforcement Administration. The purpose is to remove potentially dangerous, controlled substances from the nation's medicine cabinets, ensuring they will not be used illegally or disposed of improperly so as to harm the environment or public health.

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