BERLIN — Just as it took a little time to get the word out about the ecological and environmental dangers of dumping unused paint, used motor oil and other toxics into the area landfills, it’s likely to take a little bit of effort and public awareness campaigns to begin to eliminate the chemicals from discarded pharmaceuticals from the area’s water supply. For the second year in a row, the Assateague Coastal Trust and its civic and environmental partners are making that awareness push, sponsoring Operation Medicine Drop on April 30.
As use of both prescribed and over the counter drugs keeps pace with the area’s growing and aging population, chemicals from both eliminated and discarded drugs make their way into the area’s waterways. Unlike many other pollutants, there is no first line of defense that can be unaffected by the drugs. Where plants and animals can sometimes inhibit some nutrients’ entering the waterways, chemicals from drugs actually either bypass or alter the filtering systems both man and nature have in place.
Among the results have been critical damage to wildlife including dual sexualization of some fish as well as a continuing build up of biological agents in the water toward a saturation point.
Assateague Coastkeeper Kathy Phillips was joined by Mayor Gee Williams, Worcester County Sheriff Reggie Mason, Berlin Chief of Police Arnold Downing and Worcester County Health Department special programs coordinator Katherine Gunby to announce the most recent push to collect and destroy unused drugs before they are released into the area waterways.
The plan is to encourage residents to establish storage for their drugs in anticipation of what Phillips hoped would become more than an annual event. Drugs should be stored in their vials with the labels on in a plastic Zip Lock-type bag. Volunteers and police agency members will be posted on April 30 at several places around the county to help residents remove identifying labels, turn in unused drugs and recycle the vials.
Representatives from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency will then take the collected pharmaceuticals to be incinerated in the way that both illegal drugs legal collected drugs regularly are.
Phillips warned that people shouldn’t burn drugs in fireplaces or bonfires because there is a particular method the DEA uses to minimize atmospheric and other environmental damage in their incinerating process.
As the town moves toward having one of the most efficient wastewater disposal systems in the state it made sense to announce Operation Medicine Drop in the Atlantic Hotel.
“Permanently, we will not have any detrimental affect on our environment [because of wastewater disposal],” Williams said. He added that with the help of this program he envisioned Berlin eventually doing even more to protect the waterways upon which the area depends. “The Grow Berlin Green partnership has exceeded our expectations.”
Grow Berlin Green is one of the program partners.
Disposal of unused and unwanted or expired medicine takes place 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, April 30 at the Berlin Police Department, the Worcester County Health Departments in Snow Hill and Pocomoke, and the Food Lions in both West Ocean City and Ocean Pines. For more information contact the Assateague Coastal Trust at www.actforbays.org.