Saturday morning at CVS Pharmacy at 75 N. Middletown Road in Pearl River, Rockland County Legislature member Ed Day, R-New City, announced a proposal to address the dumping of prescription drugs into local storm drains and sewers.
Several local law enforcement members attended the press conference along with Lorette Adams, chair of the Clarkstown Community Task Force, of which Day is also a member, and John Thomas, district manager of CVS for Rockland and Bergen Counties.
“The average person really does not understand the effects of prescription drugs in the environment and in our community,” Day said. "And what I’m looking to do here is to try and bring in many, many different facets of the community into a partnership to address these issues.”
The legislation comes after a recent study researched organic wastewater contaminants in American streams, with 11 of the sample sites in the Croton watershed. All 11 of the samples tested in the study had detectable levels of human pharmaceutical compounds, emphasizing for Day the need for some form of legal regulation.
Day said that he introduced the legislation about 10 days ago, and now it will go to several legislative committees. These committees will look over the details of the proposed law and revise it if necessary. If the committees approve the legislation, the legislature members will then vote on whether or not to hold a public hearing where residents can discuss their feelings on the bill. After the hearing the legislature will vote on whether or not to pass the bill. The whole process can take several months, according to Day.
“We do have a health issue, where these drugs are abused,“ Day said. “We have an environmental issue, where these drugs are found and eventually ingested by all segments of society, particularly our children, our babies. We have an issue where young people are involved at times in the sale of these drugs, and getting arrested, and that’s something that just ruins them for the rest of their lives. And we also have an issue of people believing that there is nothing wrong with these drugs when they ingest them, and that is clearly not the truth.”
The press conference coincided with a drop-off day for “Operation Medicine Cabinet,” an initiative that began last year. It allows citizens to drop off their unwanted or expired prescription medications through the county Sherriff’s Department with no questions asked. The goal is to prevent these prescription drugs from being abused or illegally sold, particularly by youths in the county.
Day and the others speaking at the press conference also emphasized how the new legislation would ensure the health and safety of the youths in the community. This idea was important to Adams in particular, as the Community Task Force aims to reduce the use of drugs and alcohol by minors in the community.
“Any efforts by the county, the police department, the Sheriff’s department to get some of these prescription drugs out of medicine cabinets and reduce potential for illicit use is positive,” Adams said.
However, Day also emphasized that one of the major goals of this legislation, and of “Operation Medicine Cabinet,” is for public awareness on this issue. He feels that it would be best if citizens knew for themselves how to properly dispose of medications and keep them out of dangerous hands.
“Most people, I would venture to say, including yours truly, really did not realize until recently how injurious it could be to introduce prescription drugs into a toilet bowl, for example,” Day said. “ Most of us think that waste water treatments can get rid of it; that’s absolutely not true. And within that lack of knowledge that many of us as adults have, we have to make it clear [that] we don’t want to lose our children to the penal system either. Kids believe that they’re legal drugs, that it really should not be a big deal, and they’re look at making a few bucks, and they don’t realize that it’s drug dealing, and it’s a serious, serious crime in the state of New York. So we’re not looking [...] to create criminal sanctions for people; we’re looking to get the word out […] and try to get this to a county-wide approach, which is part of the reason for the law.”
And John Thomas, the CVS District Manager, agreed that this legislation would help educate the public on this important issue.
“It’s certainly a step in the right direction as far as proper medication disposal," Thomas said. "Certainly as the population grows that’s a bigger possible issue. So it’s good, because people just don’t know. They don’t know what to do with their medications, they keep them stacked up in the house, they dispose of them the wrong way, and I think it will educate the public in the right way.”
Day says the environment would be protected if Rocklanders got rid of their unwanted medications through programs like Operation Medicine Cabinet or by bringing them back to their local pharmacy for proper disposal.