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October 7, 2009 > No drugs down the drain

No drugs down the drain

By Meenu Gupta

Do you know what happens to the medicines that are disposed down toilets and drains? They reach the streams and rivers throughout the country, and in the San Francisco Bay. Even though wastewater is treated, many drugs contain persistent chemicals that cannot be removed before wastewater is discharged to the Bay. Prescription medicines and over the counter medicines, expired or unused drugs can be safely disposed off for free at various drop-off sites. This prevents water pollution and protects the Bay.

"Medications should not be disposed off down your drains. Wastewater Treatment plants are designed to treat biological waste and cannot remove all toxic substances from wastewater. Pharmaceuticals flushed into the sewer system can pass into San Francisco Bay, and may have an impact on fish and wildlife."said Michael Dunning,Union Sanitary District's Environmental Programs Manager.

USD works in collaboration with Washington Hospital Healthcare System and Haller's Pharmacies offer permanent drop-off bins within their locations. "USD is privileged to work with our local partners to provide this free service to the Tri-City area," said Dunning. "Thanks to these partnerships, our customers don't have to wait for special disposal events. Every week is No Drugs Down the Drain Week in the Tri-Cities."

In the past six months, USD has collected over 800 pounds of unwanted medicines from the permanent locations. The district pays for a licensed medical waste hauler to take the discarded pharmaceuticals to a site for incineration. The permanent drop-off locations for Fremont, Newark and Union City are:

Washington Hospital
Main Lobby
2000 Mowry Avenue, Fremont

Washington Hospital Community Health Resource Library
2500 Mowry Avenue, Fremont

Washington Township Medical Group at Nakamura Clinic
33077 Alvarado-Niles Road, Union City

Washington Township Medical Group
35500 Dumbarton Court, Newark

Washington Township Medical Group at Warm Springs
46690 Mohave Drive, Fremont
510 477-7621

Haller's Pharmacy and Medical Supply
37323 Fremont Boulevard, Fremont
Newark Haller's Pharmacy
6170 Thornton Avenue, Newark

Cough medicines, creams and other liquids can be disposed of in their original containers. Pills should be removed from medicine bottles before disposal and personal information marked out before placing empty containers in home recycle bins. Union Sanitary District operates a 30 million gallon per day wastewater treatment facility in Union City and provides collection, treatment and disposal services to the Tri-City area. For more information about the environmental impact of flushing medications or for facts about recycling, visit and click on what's new.

"Items that can have a negative effect on the environment, such as batteries, medicine, chemicals, should be disposed off properly. We all need to be more proactive about it and not just throw stuff in the garbage or down the drain," said Supervisor Dave Cortese, Santa Clara County. For location near Milpitas, visit for pharmacy locations that will accept unused prescription or over the counter medication, or call Santa Clara County Hazardous Waste Recycling and Disposal at (408) 299-7300.

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