March 24, 2016

Now I Am Asking


The Cook County Board will soon consider a proposed ordinance (Item 16-1983) governing the safe disposal of pharmaceuticals in Cook County. The goal of this measure is to build upon and expand an existing collection program administered by the Cook County Sheriff’s Department so that there are no “collection deserts” in Cook County and to require the producers of pharmaceutical drugs to provide financial support for the free and accessible collection of unwanted or expired pharmaceuticals for all County residents. The Sheriff’s Department, in conjunction with a public advisory committee, will enforce and oversee implementation of the ordinance.

Providing safe, secure and readily accessible collection sites for unused and expired meds is important both from a public safety perspective but also in protecting our water environment. Similar ordinances have already been introduced or implemented in several counties in California and Washington State, as well as a number of other countries. Your advocacy to secure passage of this measure can help move the needle nationally on this critically important issue, while potentially saving lives here at home.

But I need your help. I am asking you to call, write or email members of the Cook County Board — your own representative and others — and encourage them to support the ordinance.

Here's why this measure is so important:

  • Abuse and misuse of pharmaceuticals poses an imminent public health crisis, including here in Cook County. In 2013, there were 153 deaths and 4,915 emergency room admissions in Cook County due to prescription drug misuse. Abuse of medications is a gateway to the abuse of other substances; about 50 percent of young people who inject heroin report abusing prescription opioids before starting heroin. When people don't have safe, secure drug disposal options, their medicines accumulate at home posing threats to seniors, who may accidentally mix compounds, and to teens rifling through medicine cabinets.

  • Flushing or throwing away pharmaceuticals affects water quality. Trace amounts of pharmaceuticals have already been discovered in waters and aquatic species in Cook County. The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District cannot remove in the wastewater treatment process prescription or over-the-counter drugs that are flushed down the toilet or poured down the sink. Studies have also shown that drugs in water sources negatively affect the behavior and development of fish, frogs, and other aquatic organisms.

  • The proposed ordinance will increase the number of drug collection locations in Cook County, while also achieving greater geographic parity.

  • The ordinance prohibits producers from charging residents point-of-sale or point-of-collection fees for drop-off sites or for mail-back envelopes. Cost increases, if any, will be negligible — on the order of one dime for every $100 of prescription drugs. Pharmaceutical take-back ordinances have been implemented all over the world, and throughout the U.S. and California. There is no data showing that implementing take-back programs has directly resulted in higher medication prices.

Here is a list of Cook County Commissioners with their contact information. Please call them and let them know you support this reasonable measure to expand drug collection sites. I wouldn't ask you if it wasn't so important. If you have additional questions, please contact me.

Not Yet Sponsors:

Robert Steele — District 2
(312) 603-3019; (773) 722-0140

Jerry Butler — District 3
(312) 603-6391

Stanley Moore — District 4
(312) 603-2065; (773) 783-2412

Deborah Sims — District 5
(312) 603-6381; (708) 371-4251

Joan Patricia Murphy — District 6
(312) 603-4216; (708) 389-2125

Jesus "Chuy" Garcia — District 7
(312) 603-5443; (773) 376-2700

John Fritchey — District 12
(312) 603-6380

Gregg Goslin — District 14
(312) 603-4932; (847) 729-2279

Tim Schneider — District 15
(312) 603-6500; (847) 640-1632

Sean M. Morrison — District 17
(312) 603-4215; (708) 349-1336

Jeff Tobolski — District 16
(312) 603-6384; (708) 352-2301


Larry Suffredin — District 13
(312) 603-6383

John P. Daley — District 11
(312) 603-4400

Luis Arroyo Jr. — District 8
(312) 603-6386; (773) 417-4454

Richard R. Boykin — District 1
(312) 603-4566

Bridget Gainer — District 10
(312) 603-4210; (773) 561-1010

Peter N. Silvestri — District 9
(312) 603-4393; (773) 444-0346

To find your Cook County Commissioner, please click on where your home or business is located on this map. A text box should appear providing the first and last name of your commissioner, as well as contact information.

Cleaner Water Downstream


You may have seen the eerie green glow of ultraviolet lights in a new facility at the O’Brien treatment plant in Skokie in the newspaper or on television recently. On Wednesday, the MWRD celebrated the launch of disinfection there — a new facility that will provide what’s called tertiary treatment to the water at the plant, killing bacteria and other pathogens before the water is discharged into the North Shore Channel. This is now the largest wastewater UV disinfection facility in the U.S. at a plant with the capacity to treat more than 500 million gallons per day (average flow is 250 mgd).

While past leaders at the District did not wish to install disinfection, citing inflated costs and combined sewer overflows that still deliver high amounts of bacteria to our waterways, the efforts of IL Senator Dick Durbin, the U.S. EPA, the Illinois EPA, advocacy by environmental groups, and changing membership on the MWRD Board all led to a decision to support disinfection at the Calumet and O’Brien plants in June 2011. Now, five years later, the facilities are running, the bacteria counts are way down on dry days, and we all can celebrate better water quality.