Flushing unwanted prescription pills can pose a danger to the local water supply, like this lake in Tavares, but a lot of people are not aware of that. (Photo by Linda Charlton).

EUSTIS – It sounds simple enough: there are old bottles in the medicine cabinet filled with unused prescription pills. If the health of the adult using this medication improves, and they no longer need the pills, what easier way to get rid of them than to either flush those pills down the toilet, or simply toss the container into the trash.
Either one, Officer Robert Simken said, would be a big mistake.
Although some people assume that’s the smartest way to dispose of unwanted prescription pills, Simken, the public relations officer for the Eustis Police Department, said those pills can contaminate the local water supply if they get put into the sewage system – or can be found by others, including children, if tossed out in the trash.
The problem, he said, is not enough people know they have a third alternative – to bring those pills to their local police department to be disposed of.
“They don’t know how to get rid of them,” he said. “Rather than pouring them into the water system and putting them in the trash, we can have them professionally destroyed. We have a disposal safe here at the department where someone can come up and dispose of their medications, no questions asked, and we put it into our evidence locker for disposal. We collect them and take them to a disposal site.”
Lake County is hoping to make this task much easier for area residents on Thursday, when the Lake County Solid Waste Division and the Eustis Police Department will be holding a Prescription Drugs Take-Back event from 9 a.m. to noon in the Tractor Supply parking lot, located at 100 Ardice Ave. in Eustis.
Anyone who lives in that part of northern Lake County can stop by and safely and easily dispose of unwanted medications, in an effort to help prevent the improper use of those pills by others.
“It’s the DEA (U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency) that actually is the one that puts it on,” Simken said. “We piggyback on their event and set up sites for the legal prescription medications to be turned in, and any unwanted medications. What we’re looking to do is be able to assist the citizens of Eustis to have an avenue to be able to dispose of unwanted medications.”
As Simken noted, the DEA is trying to cut down on the improper use of legally prescribed medications, which has become a growing problem in Florida. Too often, though, residents simply don’t realize they can easily get rid of these pills by stopping by their local police station.
“We’ll be doing it twice this year with the Lake County Solid Waste Management,” Simken said. “We want to give everybody an opportunity to get rid of these medications.”
During Thursday’s take back event, Lake County’s Household Hazardous Waste Mobile Unit will also be collecting unwanted household hazardous waste. Residents will also be able to dispose of waste products that include lawn and gardening materials, photo and swimming pool chemicals, paint and related products, cleaning solutions, motor oil and used gas, batteries, fluorescent lamps, light bulbs and small propane tanks.
Materials such as infectious waste, solvents, chemical laboratory waste and radioactive waste will not be accepted there.
“Lake County Solid Waste Management will also be taking other types of items, whether it be paint cans and items you don’t want thrown out in the regular trash,” Simken said.
As part of this effort, Lake County has teamed up with a local business, Covanta Energy, Inc., in an effort to highlight another green issue: how to reduce the amount of mercury that gets introduced into the environment.  Lake County officials believe that mercury awareness and collection programs are vital tools to educate the public about mercury-bearing items and ways they should be properly discarded. During the take back, Covanta Energy, Inc. will also give away $5 Wal-Mart gift cards to residents who turn-in items containing mercury.
For more information about the Prescription Drugs Take-Back event or household hazardous waste collection, call the Lake County Department of Public Works at 352-343-3776.

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