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North Hempstead's medicine disposal program aims to keep water supplies clean

Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth hands

Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth hands off unused and outdated pharmaceuticals from seniors living in three local assisted living facilities to Nassau Police officers Ed Philip, left, and Bob Graves, center, to be disposed of at Covanta of Westbury on Friday, June 19, 2015 in Westbury. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Town of North Hempstead officials have collected unused and expired medications from assisted-living centers as part of a medicine disposal program.

Nassau County police officers and members of the town's Office of Sustainability on Friday gathered unwanted pharmaceuticals from three senior assisted-living facilities in Great Neck and Roslyn. The medications were then destroyed at Covanta Hempstead Company, a waste-combustion facility in Westbury.

The town plans to conduct other collections in September and November, removing unused medications from a maximum of five different senior and assisted-living facilities each month. Citing security reasons, town officials would not disclose the volume of medications collected.

The Citizens Campaign for the Environment, a New York-based environmental group with an office in Farmingdale, organized the $7,000 North Hempstead program using $330,000 from a grant given by the state Department of Health. The town's drug-disposal project is part of a statewide initiative by the Citizens Campaign to prevent excess medications from being discarded down drains.

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Citizens Campaign, said it's crucial to prevent medicinal contamination of local water sources.

"It's a major priority to remove these drugs from our drinking water and coastal waters," Esposito said. "Prescription drugs should be prescribed by your doctor, not be pouring out of your faucet."

The Town of North Hempstead's chief sustainability officer, Erin Reilley, said the drug-collection program will make it easier for senior citizens to throw out excess medicine. Reilley helps organize the town's S.T.O.P. -- Stop Throwing Out Pollutants -- program, which provides residents with local medicine-disposal stations. But some seniors have trouble driving to these places.

"Many senior citizens don't have a convenient option to dispose of the drugs," Reilley said. "Many senior citizens have been told that flushing meds down the drain is the correct way to dispose of them. We need to make sure residents have a convenient method of disposal and that they get the correct information."

S.T.O.P. has removed more than 7 tons of unwanted drugs in as many years, town officials said. Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth said she has seen trash bags bulging with pills at previous S.T.O.P. events. She says that she hopes the new drug-collection plan will also be successful.

"We're taking a proactive stance to help residents throw out medicine in a safe way," Bosworth said.

The program is also designed to prevent an overabundance of medicine in peoples' homes that may increase the risk of drug abuse or theft of the pharmaceuticals.


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