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Prescription Drug Disposal Plan. Cooper Would Require Medical Facilities to Safely Discard of Prescription Meds

Legislator Cooper

The office of Legislature Cooper issued this release today:

Ever concerned with protecting Suffolk County’s only truly indigenous natural resource—drinking water—Legislative Majority Leader Jon Cooper (D-Lloyd Harbor) has introduced legislation to make medical facilities more accountable for how they are disposing of the huge amounts of prescription drugs they discard.

Unlike New York City, which must rely primarily on water supplied from upstate reservoirs located far away, the Nassau/Suffolk Sole Source Aquifer (located approximately 1,500 feet below the land’s surface) is one of only seven aquifers totally located within the boundaries of New York State. It is the primary source of drinking water for the vast majority of Suffolk County’s 1.5 million residents. Unlike the county’s air pollution problem, which in large part emanates from emissions that blow in from population centers off the Island, the 138 billion gallons of water used by Nassau and Suffolk each year is taken from right below our feet.

In 2008, an estimated $800 billion of prescription drugs were sold worldwide. Trace amounts of more than 150 different types of those medicines have been found in environments as far away as the Arctic Circle. According to a study by the United States Geological Survey, 80% of U.S. streams and nearly one quarter of the nation’s groundwater sampled have been found to be contaminated with a variety of medications. These include hormones, chemotherapy drugs, pain killers, antibiotics, antidepressants, anti-seizure medications and tranquilizers, just to name a few. These pharmaceuticals find their way into drinking water sources because too many individuals and institutions simply flush expired drugs down the toilet, or pour them down the sink drain. Other medications are illegally dumped, along with contaminated medical waste, into waterways. The federal government doesn’t require any testing and hasn’t set safety limits for drugs in water. But even if they did, the EPA concedes that there are no sewage treatment systems specifically engineered to remove pharmaceuticals.

Cooper’s proposal would require that, starting in 2012, all hospitals, hospice facilities, nursing homes and long-term care facilities file a written plan with the Suffolk County Department of Health Services detailing how they will provide for the safe disposal of unused and expired medications they store and dispense. These plans must establish the means by which the facility will dispose of such drugs in an environmentally secure manner to prevent medications from entering the drinking water supply, rivers, estuaries, bays and ocean. If a facility is in need of assistance so as to determine how best to dispose of medications, the Department of Health Services will provide referrals to experts in the field.

“Being located on an island, Suffolk has to rely on the outside world for the vast majority of resources. One of the very few cheap and plentiful local commodities we do have control over is our drinking water,” says Cooper. “My measure will hold accountable the largest dispensers of prescription medications to make sure that, while they are helping the patients under their care, they also take care not to expose the rest of us to the potential long-term dangers of their presence in the water we consume every day.”

Experts concur with Cooper, saying that medications may pose a unique danger because, unlike most pollutants, they were crafted to act on the human body.

“We know we are being exposed to other people’s drugs through our drinking water, and that can’t be good,” said Dr. David Carpenter, who directs the Institute for Health and the Environment of the State University of New York at Albany, when he was quoted for a groundbreaking 2008 Associated Press investigation to detect drugs in the drinking water supplies of 24 major metropolitan areas.

Spurred on by Legislator Cooper’s initiative, the Citizens Campaign for the Environment is not only robustly endorsing the measure but has decided to monitor how safely institutions are disposing of their meds. Once Cooper’s measure is adopted, the CCE says they plan to issue a yearly “report card” to let the public know which healthcare facilities do the best—and the worst—job of disposing of their pharmaceuticals.

“I don’t know a single person who wants to add Morphine and Amoxicillin to their morning coffee, or to their baby formula,” stated Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “We might not yet know the specific, long-term impacts associated with pharmaceutical drugs in our drinking water, but what we don’t know can hurt us. As more prescription drugs are found in our waterways and groundwater, we need common sense laws to prevent this growing source of contamination. We applaud Legislator Cooper for this initiative and look forward to building upon it by holding institutions accountable in order to protect people and the environment. ”

Cooper’s bill will be eligible for a vote by the County Legislature at their next General Meeting on March 22nd in Hauppauge starting at 4:00 pm.

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6 comments to Prescription Drug Disposal Plan. Cooper Would Require Medical Facilities to Safely Discard of Prescription Meds

  • Wow

    This is just great Jon, but we are getting shot over here. Can you offer any help with that or are you just worried about our pets?

    • Chris K.

      Are you kidding me? Jon Cooper has done more to fight street crime and gang activity in Huntington Station than anybody else. He’s pushed hard to hire more cops, installed surveillance cameras, reopened the police annex and is bringing ShotSpotter here. We need more elected officials like him.

  • Missy

    is this guy serious! what about the budget problems. he is typical Llyd harbor rich guy no touch with reality and he wants us to vote for his Rossitti, his rich next door neighbor as a replacement

    • Huntington Hal

      I read that Cooper has introduced a bill to impose a 2% cap on spending in Suffolk County, similar to what’s being proposed by Cuomo in Albany. Sure sounds like he’s trying to do something about our budget problems!

  • michael


    you need a prescription to deal with illegal housing and landlords
    this down is being destroyed

  • Clifford Sondock

    Jon, Suffolk County is not competent to assume responsibility for such an important task. Frankly, the private sector and the torts laws work pretty well. Hospitals and other healthcare institutions have enough regulations to deal with than to deal with more from Suffolk County. Suffolk County needs less to do, not more.

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