Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council
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Medicines in Our Waterways

The two main sources of pharmaceuticals in the environment are excretion and disposal. Most people flush their unused medicines down the toilet or sink. Sewage treatment plants are not designed to treat all the substances contained in medications. Although wastewater treatment plants are currently equipped to remove chemicals, foreign materials, and microorganisms from the water prior to ejecting it into natural waters, such as streams and lakes, active drug compounds from humans are not eliminated from the water in the treatment process. Treatment systems permit up to 93% of highly concentrated active drug compounds to leave the treatment plant. Therefore, most of these chemicals pass through the wastewater treatment facility (or they are processed through septic systems) and accumulate in rivers, lakes, ground water, and aquatic organisms. Even drugs thrown in the trash can eventually leach into the landfill and wind up in our ground water.

Many studies in the last ten years have detected pharmaceutical compounds in treated wastewater effluent, rivers, lakes, and ground water. According to the USGS, over 80% of waterways tested in the United States show traces of common medications such as acetaminophen, hormones, blood pressure medicine, codeine, and antibiotics. Samples from 139 streams in 30 states were analyzed during 1999 and 2000 for 95 chemicals and 82 of the 95 chemicals were detected at least once. Generally, these chemicals were found at very low concentrations (in most cases, less than 1 part per billion). Mixtures of the chemicals were common; 75 percent of the streams had more than one, 50 percent had 7 or more, and 34 percent had 10 or more.

The continuous exposure to low levels of pharmaceuticals can harm aquatic communities. This presents a problem to the aquatic environment because pharmaceutical compounds are specifically designed to affect biological organisms. While environmental concentrations are below acutely toxic levels, the main concern is the chronic and/or synergistic effects of the “cocktail” of pharmaceuticals humans have created in the water. The specific scientific harm caused by discharge of highly concentrated active drug compounds into our nation’s waterways is not precisely known due to the unknown effect of pharmaceutical drugs on organisms not intended to consume the drug, and the constantly changing chemical mixture discharged from wastewater treatment plants. Although extensive scientific study and additional analysis is needed to better understand the impact presented by these chemicals, researchers have already observed endocrine disruption in fish in close proximity to wastewater treatment plants. Endocrine disruption is the most widespread and documented effect that pharmaceuticals have on aquatic organisms. Chronic exposure to endocrine disruptors, such as the compounds used in birth control, can feminize male fish and debilitate their capacity to reproduce. Also of concern is the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria populations. A number of studies have shown a decrease in antibiotic effectiveness due to its widespread presence in the environment.

Additionally, an Associated Press five-month investigation concluded a vast array of pharmaceuticals have been found in drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans. At current levels, pharmaceutical residues are unlikely to pose an immediate risk to human health, but the long-term consequences of individual chemicals, and combinations of chemicals, are unknown, especially as concentrations rise.

Public Safety

Proper disposal of unwanted medicines is also a public safety issue. Keeping medicines around the home can lead to possible poisoning from accidental ingestion, particularly among young children and pets, or illegal use or theft. When unused or expired prescription drugs sit in the medicine cabinet, they become too easily available and appealing to potential drug abusers, especially young adults and youth. According to a National Survey on Drug Use and Health, persons between the ages of 12 and 17 abuse prescription drugs more than cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine combined and prescription drug abuse is second only to marijuana use. Michigan has one of the highest rates of teen prescription drug abuse in the nation. A study by The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy found that an astounding 12% of teens in Michigan use prescription drugs recreationally, much higher than the 7% national average.

Additionally, medications left unattended can have tragic consequences. Among people aged 35–54 years, unintentional poisoning surpassed motor-vehicle crashes as the leading cause of unintentional injury death in 2005. Among the deaths attributed to drugs, the most common drug categories are cocaine, heroin, and a type of prescription drug called opioid painkillers such as oxycodone (Oxycotin) and hydrocodone (Vicodin). Furthermore, each year in the United States, more than 71,000 children aged 18 and younger are seen in emergency rooms for unintentional overdoses of prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

Properly getting rid of unused medicines reduces the risk that prescriptions will be mishandled and end up on the street.

How to Properly Dispose of Medications

Prescription & Over-the-Counter Drug Drop-Off Box (POD Box)

A secure, convenient, and environmentally sound option for the disposal of unused and unwanted household medications.

Residents can drop off unused or unwanted medications at any time throughout the year. All medications are handled according to the law enforcement agency’s evidence protocols until take for final destruction in accordance with state and federal laws. To learn more about the POD Drop-off Program, visit www.pillsinthepod.com.

POD Drop Box Locations:
(Listed in alphabetical order, by county)

Antrim County

  • Antrim County Sheriff's Office
    Administration Office
    107 Grove Street
    Bellaire, MI 49615
    (231) 533-8627

  • Elk Rapids Police Department
    321 Bridge Street
    Elk Rapids, MI 49629
    (231) 264-6592

Charlevoix County

  • Boyne City - City Hall
    319 North Lake Street
    Boyne City, MI 49712
    (231) 582-6611

  • Charlevoix County Sheriff's Office - Jail Entrance
    1000 Grant Street
    Charlevoix, MI 49720
    (231) 547-4461

  • Charlevoix County Sheriff's Office
    Beaver Island Substation

    37830 Kings Highway
    Beaver Island, MI 49782
    (231) 448-2700

  • City of Charlevoix Police Department
    210 State Street
    Charlevoix, MI 49720
    (231) 547-3258

  • City of East Jordan Police Department
    326 Main Street
    East Jordan, MI 49727
    (231) 536-2273

Cheboygan County

  • Cheboygan County Sheriff Department
    County Building
    870 S. Main Street
    Cheboygan, MI 49721
    (231) 627-3155

  • Cheboygan Department of Public Safety
    Cheboygan City Hall
    403 N. Huron Street
    Cheboygan, MI 49721
    (231) 627-4321

  • Mackinaw City Police Department
    Village Hall
    102 S. Huron Avenue
    Mackinaw City, MI 49701
    (231) 436-7861

  • Tuscarora Township Police Department
    3546 Sturgeon Avenue
    Indian River, MI 49749
    (231) 238-9481

Emmet County

  • City of Petoskey Department of Public Safety - Front Lobby of City Hall
    101 East Lake Street
    Petoskey, MI 49770
    (231) 347-2500

  • City of Petoskey Department of Public Safety
    Public Safety Station West - Bay Harbor

    3625 Charlevoix Avenue
    Petoskey, MI 49770
    (231) 347-4642

  • Emmet County Sheriff's Office - Jeffery P. Bodzick Administrative Office
    and Correctional Facility (Jail Entrance)

    450 Bay Street
    Petoskey, MI 49770
    (231) 347-2036

  • Emmet County Sheriff's Office - Richard L. Zink Law Enforcement Center
    3460 Harbor-Petoskey Road (M-119)
    Harbor Springs, MI 49740
    (231) 439-8900

  • Harbor Springs Police Department
    170 Zoll Street
    Harbor Springs, MI 49740
    (231) 526-6211

  • Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians
    Tribal Police Department

    911 Spring Street, Lower Level
    Petoskey, MI 49770
    (231) 242-1574

Additional POD Boxes outside of
our service area include:

Mackinac County

  • City of St. Ignace Police Department
    396 N. State Street
    St. Ignace, MI 49781
    (906) 643-6077

  • Mackinac County Sheriff's Office
    100 South Marley Street
    St. Ignace, MI 49781
    (906) 643-1911

Grand Traverse County

  • Grand Traverse County Sheriff/Traverse City Police Department
    Law Enforcement Center
    851 Woodmere Avenue
    Traverse City, MI 49686
    (231) 995-5001
Prescription and over the counter drug drop off box
Sara Ward from the Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation demonstrates how easy it is to dispose of your unwanted and expired medications in the new POD Box located at the City Hall in Petoskey.

Items Accepted:

  • Prescription Drugs (Including controlled substances)
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) Medicines
  • Pet Medicines
  • Nutritional Supplements and Vitamins
  • Medicated Ointments and Lotions
  • Liquid Medications in Sealed Containers or Plastic Bags

Items Not Accepted:

  • Needles, Lancets, or Pen Needles (ANY Sharps)
  • Aerosol Cans
  • Bloody or Infectious Waste
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Thermometers
  • IV Bags
  • Trash
  • Mail

The POD Collection Box Program was made possible by the generous funding of:

Charlevoix County Community Foundation
Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation
Dole Family Foundation
Emmet County Household Chemical Drop-off
Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI)
Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development
Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP)
Petoskey Rotary Club Charities, Inc.
Burt Lake Preservation Association
Mullet Lake Area Preservation Society
Charlevoix County Sheriff’s Office
Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council

Partners in the POD Collection Program include:

HARBOR Inc., Emmet County DPW, Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council, McLaren Northern Michigan Hospital, The Michigan State Police, Prescription Services Pharmacy, Charlevoix County Recycling Program, Charlevoix County Conservation District, Northwest Michigan Community Health Agency, Charlevoix Area Hospital, Charlevoix County Commissioners, County Commission on Aging, Central Drug Store, Antrim County Sheriff’s Office, Boyne City Police Department, Charlevoix County Sheriff's Office, City of East Jordan Police Department, City of Petoskey Department of Public Safety, Cheboygan County Sheriff Department, Cheboygan Department of Public Safety, Elk Rapids Police Department, Emmet County Sheriff’s Office, Harbor Springs Police Department, Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians Tribal Police, Mackinaw City Police Department, Tuscarora Township Police Department, City of St. Ignace Police Department, Grand Traverse County Sheriff and Traverse City Police Department.

Prescription and Over-the-Counter Drug
Collection Events

Tuesday, April 21, 2015
10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
McLaren Northern Michigan, Cheboygan Campus 
(Entrance North of the Emergency Department)

They will also be accepting sharps, cell phones, shoes, eyeglasses, and hearing aids for proper disposal/recycling. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015
7:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
McLaren Northern Michigan, Petoskey Campus
(Hospital Circle Driveway. Entrance off Mitchell Street across from Johan's Bakery.)

They will also be accepting sharps, cell phones, shoes, eyeglasses, and hearing aids for proper disposal/recycling.

Saturday, April 25, 2015
10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
In front of Antrim County Courthouse
E. Cayuga Street, Bellaire

Saturday, July 25, 2015
9:00 a.m. - 12:00 Noon
Emmet County Drop-Off Center

(7363 Pleasantview Road, Harbor Springs

Saturday, September 12, 2015
9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Boyne City Road Commission Garage

(Just east of the Boyne City Public School football field.) 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015 
7:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
McLaren Northern Michigan, Petoskey Campus

(Hospital Circle Driveway, Entrance off Mitchell Street across from Johan's Bakery.)

They will also be accepting sharps, cell phones, shoes, eyeglasses, and hearing aids for proper disposal/recycling.

Saturday, October 31, 2015 
10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
In front of Antrim County Courthouse
E. Cayuga Street, Bellaire

We will be accepting:

  • Prescription Drugs
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) Medicines
  • Pet Medicines
  • Nutritional Supplements and Vitamins
  • Skin Care Products and more
Charlevoix County Drug Collection Day

Not in our service area? You still have options!

For those living outside of our four-county service area or even Michigan, you can use the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators (NADDI) “Find a Rx Box Near You” Program to find a drop box where you live. Simply use the following link http://rxdrugdropbox.org/map-search/ and the closest drop box will appear on the map.

With all of these options, proper disposal of unwanted and unused medications should be possible for everyone!

You can also help by reducing the quantity of unwanted medications in your home:

  • Purchase only as much as you need and take the medication as prescribed by your physician.
  • Centralize all medications in one location secured from children and pets. This may help to limit inadvertent over-purchasing of products you already have.
  • In order to preserve the quality of your medicines, store medications at proper temperature and humidity as recommended on the label. This is sometimes NOT in the bathroom medicine cabinet.
  • Say “No” to physician samples if you are not going to use them.
Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council • 426 Bay Street, Petoskey, MI 49770
PH: (231) 347-1181 • Fax: (231) 347-5928 • www.watershedcouncil.org
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