United States Geologic Survey studies since 1970 show that improperly disposed pharmaceuticals are polluting our waterways.

In 2002, the USGS found that steroids and non-prescription drugs are in the top three chemical groups most frequently detected in surface water, and in 2004 found that at least 100 different pharmaceuticals could be identified. While the environmental consequences of pharmaceutical contamination are only beginning to be investigated, researchers found that exposure to small amounts of drugs commonly found in waterways caused mutations in some aquatic species.

This is not only a concern for aquatic life, but for our drinking water supplies. Most recently, an EPA investigation found pharmaceuticals in the drinking water supply of 41 million Americans. Waste water treatment plants are not equipped to remove these chemicals and therefore large or trace amounts are entering our waterways and drinking water. With little research performed, it is still unknown what damage can accrue from the regular consumption of pharmaceutical waste, in any amount.

Recent data shows that 89 percent of respondents said they disposed of medications in the garbage or flushed medications down the toilet or sink. The EPA estimated that at least 250 million pounds of pharmaceuticals are flushed by health care facilities alone every year. Disposing of pills in the trash risks the medication falling into the wrong hands. Equally disastrous, the pills can break down and leach into the groundwater around landfills, eventually reaching rivers and streams (Click Figure 1 to enlarge it).






The French Broad Riverkeeper has already partnered with the Henderson County Sheriff’s department to collect over 87,000 pills as part of Operation Medicine Drop. Through this work and the concern of the public, there have been several permanent medicine drop boxes installed throughout Western North Carolina:

Henderson County Sheriff’s Office

100 North Grove St.


Drop-off times are Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-5 p.m.


Asheville Police Department

100 Court Plaza


Drop-off times are Monday-Friday 9 a.m-5 p.m.


Madison County Sheriff’s Department

348 Medical Park Drive


Drop-off times are 24/7.


Haywood County Sheriff’s Office

1620 Brown Ave


Drop-off times are 24/7.


Transylvania Sheriff’s Office

153 Public Safety Way


Drop-off times are Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-8 p.m.