Toxic waterways from flushed narcotics are becoming an environmental problem
A recent Facebook post by Tennessee's Loretto Police Department claiming if you flush methamphetamine down the toilet, you could create "meth gators" sounds quite serious. While meth gators are a horrifying thought, the officers were just kidding. Kind of.
According to al.com, officers made the Facebook post warning folks not to flush their meth last week after arresting a suspected drug dealer who was found attempting to do just that.
Once police entered Andy Perry's home, officers found him trying to flush the meth and several items of paraphernalia down his toilet. He was arrested, and the police department released a statement on Facebook about the incident:
This Folks…please don't flush your drugs, m'kay (sic). When you send something down the sewer pipe it ends up in our retention ponds for processing before it is sent downstream. Now our sewer guys take great pride in releasing water that is cleaner than what is in the creek, but they are not really prepared for meth.
"Ducks, Geese and other fowl frequent our treatment ponds and we shudder to think what one all hyped up on meth would do. Furthermore, if it made it far enough, we could create meth-gators in Shoal Creek and the Tennessee River down in North Alabama. They've had enough methed up animals the past few weeks without our help. So, if you need to dispose of your drugs, just give us a call and we will make sure they are disposed of in the proper way.
The post about Alabama's methed-up animals is referring to police claims that an Alabama drug dealer had been feeding meth to his pet squirrel to keep it aggressive.
"Now our sewer guys take great pride in releasing water that is cleaner than what is in the creek, but they are not really prepared for meth."
While flushing drugs down the toilet probably won't create "meth gators," pharmaceutical drug contamination in our groundwater, rivers, lakes, estuaries and bays is a growing problem, according to scientificamerican.com. Millions of people are flushing unused medications down the toilet and discharging them through bodily waste. But sewage treatment plants and septic systems were never designed to deal with such contaminants. Additional discharges by healthcare facilities make the problem even worse. As a result, researchers have identified traces of pharmaceutical drugs in the drinking water supplies of some 40 million Americans.
A nationwide study conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey in 1999 and 2000 found low levels of pharmaceuticals — including antibiotics, hormones, contraceptives and steroids in 80 percent of the rivers and streams sampled. According to Citizens Campaign for the Environment (CCE), the effects of constant, low-level exposure of pharmaceuticals on ecosystems and humans are uncertain, though possible health concerns include hormone disruption, antibiotic resistance and synergistic effects. And antidepressants are known to alter the behavior and reproductive functions of fish and mollusks.
According to Americanrivers.org, many of the Potomac River's male bass are producing eggs, and similar intersex fish are being found in rivers across the country. While scientists have yet to pinpoint the cause of this mutation, it's thought that a group of compounds known as endocrine disruptors are responsible. These chemicals affect key biological processes regulated by hormones, such as growth, development and reproduction, and include common medications including birth control pills.
So how we you keep harmful drugs out of our water sources? Stop flushing them down the toilet, for one. The best way to dispose of most types of old, unused, unwanted or expired medicines is to drop off the medicine at a drug take-back site location, or program, as soon as possible.
Check out this article by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for tips on discarding unused medications safely.