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Nisswa to get drug disposal program

Crow Wing County is expanding its unwanted medications disposal program to Nisswa.

The program allows people to drop off unused medications, either over the counter or prescription drugs. Whether medications have become outdated, or prescriptions changed or not all painkillers needed, the county's goal is to keep those drugs from being flushed or put in the trash so the chemicals end up in the landfill.

Chris Pence, land services supervisor, said pharmaceuticals are a chemical of concern with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).

As rain and snowmelt travel through the landfill debris and refuse, the contaminated liquid - called leachate - is collected and treated. The county is currently able to spread treated leachate on land, saving costs to ship the leachate to a waste water treatment plant. The county has been averaging 8,000,000 gallons of leachate a year. Shipping it would come at a cost of 10 cents per gallon or $800,000 annually.

Pence said it really is a matter of being proactive to benefit the landfill. Wells across the state have seen hits from antibacterial soaps and pharmaceuticals, Pence said.

The county reported hundreds of pounds of unwanted medications have been collected and kept out of the landfill through this program since 2012.

Community services noted the program also keeps drugs from being stolen from parents' or grandparents' medicine cabinets and removes outdated medication. Commissioner Paul Thiede said it's a good opportunity for the public to recognize the problem of prescription drugs and get rid of them before they are abused.

The program sets up a drop-off box for the medications. The cost for a free-standing unit at the Nisswa City Hall is $1,250. The city of Nisswa is covering the installation costs. Following MPCA directives, the locked drop-off boxes are constantly monitored, locked and fixed to prevent access.

The county has three existing locations, at the Law Enforcement Center (LEC) off Laurel Street in Brainerd and at city halls in Crosby and Breezy Point.

It costs the county 50 cents per pound to properly dispose of the medications.

In 2012, the county collected 680 pounds. In 2013, the county collected 800 pounds. And this year to date, the county collected 520 pounds.

Pence reported the Crosby drop-off site is generating two tubs of pharmaceuticals per month, which is expected to matched by the Nisswa location. The drop-off at the LEC generates a tub per week. The unwanted medications are then incinerated.

Renee Richardson
Richardson is a Pacelli High School graduate from Austin, Minn., who earned an applied science degree from the University of Minnesota, Waseca, with an emphasis in horse management. She worked extensively in the resort industry. She received an associate’s degree from Central Lakes College, where she was editor of the Westbank Journal student newspaper, as well as a summer intern at the Dispatch. She graduated from St. Cloud State University summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and interned at the St. Cloud Times covering business while attending SCSU. She's been with the Brainerd Dispatch since 1996.
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