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NYS Legislature Passes Drug Take Back Act

Drug Take BackIn a critical vote to improve water quality, the New York State Assembly and Senate both passed the Drug Take Back Act today (unanimously), the final day of the 2018 Legislative Session. The Act now goes to Governor Andrew Cuomo for his signature.

The Department of Environmental Conservation earlier this month released a report calling for just such legislation, so we have every expectation Gov. Cuomo will sign it into law.

The bill will help address the opioid crisis and keep pharmaceuticals out of our waters.

Riverkeeper and partners — including Cornell University and the EPA — have conducted first-of-their-kind surveys of pharmaceuticals in the Hudson River Estuary. Fifty different pharmaceutical compounds were detected, with greater numbers found in samples at or near municipal wastewater treatment plant outfalls. Wastewater treatment plants are not designed to remove pharmaceuticals from the water before discharge. The Hudson River Estuary is both a source of drinking water ­for over 100,000 people ­and the point of discharge for 44 municipally owned wastewater treatment plants.

The health and environmental consequences of this cocktail of drugs in the water aren’t fully understood, but researchers have identified impacts on aquatic life. Intersex fish — those with both male and female characteristics — have been observed in parts of the Hudson River Watershed.

The Drug Take Back Act will require chain pharmacies to provide consumers with convenient and free drug disposal. It would establish the strongest pharmaceutical disposal program in the nation, and create a model for other states to emulate. Crucially, it dramatically expands options for safe and responsible disposal of unused pharmaceuticals, and shifts the cost to the pharmaceutical industry, rather than taxpayers.

The Drug Take Back Act has been one of Riverkeeper’s highest priorities for the Legislature this year. We have worked with a coalition of partners to advocate for the Drug Take Back Act, including Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Senator Kemp Hannon, Assembly member Aileen Gunther, and Ulster County Executive Mike Hein. We couldn’t have achieved this without the help of our members who took action at several key moments to ensure the passage of this important new law.

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