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Use Washington Hospital's Network of Free, Convenient Drop-Off Sites for Unused Medication

Keep Drugs Out of Our Water

Today, nearly everyone in California is worried about water, and rightly so. Will we have enough to meet our needs in the years to come? But, there are other important water-related issues we should also be concerned about.

For example, water quality experts and environmental advocates are worried about what chemicals in prescription drugs and over-the-counter medication can do to our water supply when they are flushed down the drain or toilet. This includes any prescription or non-prescription substances intended to be swallowed, inhaled, injected, applied to the skin or eyes, or otherwise absorbed by any area of the body.

For more than a decade, we’ve known that flushing unused medications down the drain or toilet is bad for wildlife and the environment. Wastewater treatment plants are not designed to remove pharmaceuticals, so drugs that are flushed away can end up in our lakes, rivers, streams and other waterways, including San Francisco Bay. Unfortunately, in many communities there are few places that will take unused medication for safe disposal.

As part of its commitment to a healthy community, Washington Hospital Healthcare System has made it easier for local residents to help keep drugs out of our water supply. Through a partnership with the Union Sanitary District, the System has provided Tri-City area residents with a convenient, safe and environmentally sound option for disposing of old medications. The service is free to residents.

“We are very passionate about keeping pharmaceuticals out of the water supply,” said Paul Kelley, Director of Washington Hospital’s Biomedical Engineering, the Green initiative and Asset Redeployment. “Since 2008, with the enthusiastic support of Hospital leadership, we’ve been helping our community dispose of medications properly.”

Washington Hospital has five permanent drop-off sites located throughout the community:

  • Washington Hospital, Main Lobby, 2000 Mowry Avenue, Fremont
  • Washington Hospital Community Health Resource Library, 2500 Mowry Avenue (Washington West), Fremont
  • Washington Township Medical Foundation (WTMF) at Nakamura Clinic, 33077 Alvarado Niles Road, Union City
  • WTMF at Newark, 6236 Thornton Avenue, Newark
  • WTMF at Warm Springs, 46690 Mohave Drive, Fremont

When dropping off unused medication, follow these guidelines: If you drop off pills or capsules, take them out of the container and leave the medication in the drop-off receptacle. Washington Hospital cannot be responsible for patient information on the bottle. You can recycle the empty containers at home as you normally do with glass or plastic. If you have unused cough medicines, creams or other liquids, leave them in their containers when you drop them off.

Washington Hospital Healthcare System’s Unused Medication Drop-Off program collected more than 400 pounds of medication each month in 2014. Since the program began over six years ago, it has collected over 13,000 pounds of unused medication.

Safe disposal of dropped-off medication is paid for by the Union Sanitary District, an independent special district that provides wastewater collection, treatment and disposal services to residents and businesses in the cities of Fremont, Newark and Union City. Collected medications are picked up by a service hired to haul the waste away for incineration.

Even Trace Amounts can be Harmful

As chemical analysis technology has improved, scientists have been able to detect trace amount of pharmaceuticals in our oceans, lakes and waterways. Studies show exposure to even low levels of drugs affects fish and other aquatic species by interfering with their growth and reproduction.

The U.S. Geological Survey has been testing the water in 139 streams in 30 states since 2002. It has found that 80 percent contained measurable concentrations of prescription and non-prescription drugs, steroids and reproductive hormones. An Associated Press investigation revealed Americans are flushing away more than 250 million pounds of pills each year.

Learn More

For more information about Washington Hospital Healthcare System’s Unused Medication Drop-Off program or its Green Initiative, go to For more information about the environmental impact of flushing medications or for facts about recycling, visit or