pillsWhen was the last time you cleaned out your medicine cabinet? With New Year’s right around the corner, this is a great time to take stock of prescriptions and other medications and make a resolution to keep our water clean by disposing of them properly.

Oftentimes, unused prescriptions and other medications are dumped down the drain or toilet, says Grand Traverse Baykeeper® Heather Smith. This means antibiotics, contraceptives, hormones and vitamins are making their way into our waterways and threatening marine life and human health.

After being flushed or poured down a drain, many medications pass through sewer and septic systems, as these systems are not designed to treat all the substances contained in medications.

“Many of these pharmaceuticals pass through the treatment systems and make their way to groundwater, lakes, rivers and the bay, which is our source for drinking water,” Smith says. Traverse City is the local exception, as it uses membrane bioreactors that may remove some pharmaceuticals while treating wastewater; however they cannot catch all of the diverse medicines on the market today.

According to the Michigan DEQ, over the past several decades, studies have shown persistent low levels of pharmaceuticals in our surface water and groundwater. Although there are no known health risks to people at these low levels, there are known impacts to amphibians, fish, wildlife and bacteria.

A 2013 University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee study found a total of 27 chemicals in Lake Michigan that are used in both pharmaceuticals and personal care products. The four that turned up most often included metformin, an anti-diabetic drug; sulfamethoxazole, an antibiotic; and triclosan, an antibacterial and antifungal compound found in soaps, toothpastes and other personal care products. Fourteen of the chemicals were found to be of “medium or high ecological risk,” according to the study’s researchers.

drug-returnWithout improvements in disposal and our wastewater treatment technologies, the level of pharmaceuticals in our water is expected to increase as more and more people continue to take more and more medications. One way to address the issue head-on to make sure prescriptions and medications are disposed of properly, and there are a variety of options in the Grand Traverse Bay watershed, including free programs at local pharmacies and law enforcement centers.

“The simple act of collecting and dropping off your unused medications and prescription drugs at a nearby collection station helps reduce the impact of these substances on the aquatic environment and on human health,” Smith says. “Small actions add up.”


A Sampling of Resources by County:

Elk Rapids Police Department
321 Bridge Street
Elk Rapids, MI 49629
(231) 624-6592

River Pharmacy
124 Ames Street
Elk Rapids, MI 49629
(231) 264-8165

Bellaire Pharmacy
120 N Bridge Street
Bellaire, MI 49615
(231) 533-8014

Grand Traverse
Law Enforcement Center
851 Woodmere Avenue
Traverse City, MI 49686
(231) 995-5005

Medicine Shoppe
1128 S. Garfield Avenue
Traverse City, MI 49686
(231) 946-0900

Sixth Street Drug Inc
1020 6th Street
Traverse City, MI 49684
(231) 946-4570

Leelanau County Sheriff’s Department
8525 E. Government Center Drive
Suttons Bay, MI 49682
(231) 256-8661

Bay Shore Pharmacy
93A W. Fourth Street
Suttons Bay, MI 49682
(231) 271-6111

Kalkaska County Sheriff’s Office
605 N. Birch Street
Kalkaska, MI 49646
(231) 258-8686

To find a disposal near you, visit:

Share and Enjoy:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter