Things to Avoid Putting in Your Septic Tank #1 – Medications

When you have leftover medications on hand it can be tempting to flush them away. DON’T.

Pharmaceuticals can destroy the bacterial balance in your septic system, causing septic failure.  They also contribute to the proliferation of “superbugs”, antibiotic-resistant bacteria that pose a health risk to us all.

Improperly disposed medications contaminate groundwater, endangering the environment and, closer to home, your own drinking water.  This is a widespread problem — researchers have found traces of pharmaceutical drugs in the drinking water supplies of 40 million Americans. Pharmaceuticals were found in 80% of rivers and streams sampled in a nationwide study in 2000.

To safely dispose of medications:

  • Find a medicine take-back program in your area. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) hosts National Prescription Drug Take-Back events, setting up collection sites in communities nationwide for safe disposal of prescription drugs. Your local police department may also sponsor a medicine take-back program. If you can’t find a medicine takeback program, contact your local waste management authorities to learn about medication disposal options and guidelines for your area.
  • If you cannot find a takeback program, you may have to dispose of unwanted medications in the trash – but be sure to do it safely to prevent accidental poisoning or environmental contamination. The FDA recommends taking medications out of their original containers, mixing them with an “undesirable substance” (such as kitty litter or used coffee grounds), putting the mixture in a Ziploc bag or a container with a lid, then throwing the whole package in the trash.