Septic 101: A Guide For Homeowners

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Don't Flush Your Old Meds: How To Dispose Of Medications Properly

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Unused and expired medications often end up in drains because people assume it's okay to flush them. However, medications can wreak havoc on your septic system. Here is a look at what those medications can do to your septic system along with solutions for dealing with unused medications the right way.

What Happens When Medications Enter Your Septic System

Your septic tank includes bacteria and enzymes that work to dissolve waste and maintain balance in your septic tank. Medications and pharmaceuticals, especially antibiotics, can actively work against bacteria and enzymes. A buildup of pharmaceuticals can inadvertently kill off a large swathe of bacteria necessary for the overall functioning of your septic system.

Beyond the immediate concerns of your septic system, there's also the possibility the contaminated wastewater can make it into the groundwater, rivers, or lakes.

What You Can Do with Unused Medications

Instead of flushing unused and expired medications, you can dispose of them more responsibly.

Take your unused medications to a drug disposal location

You can take unused medications to a drug disposal or drug take-back location. These locations exist all over the nation, and the Department of Justice offers a search to help you find the sites closest to you.

Ask a pharmacist about proper disposal

A pharmacist can give you insight into what to do with unused or expired medications. The pharmacy may have its own drug take-back program or offer other solutions for disposing of medications.

Use the trash instead of the drain

You can dispose of your medications in the trash:

  • Remove the medication from its container.
  • Mix the medication with something else, such as sand, dirt, litter, or coffee grounds.
  • Place the mix in a lidded or sealable container or bag.
  • Place the sealed container or bag into the trash.

Putting pharmaceuticals into the garbage isn't the most ideal option, but it's preferable to flushing them.

Flush medications on the flush list

The FDA keeps a list of medications you can safely flush, and some medications even say it's okay to flush them in their instructions. However, it's usually better to err on the side of caution with your septic system.

Even if you can flush the medication, consider choosing a different disposal method. If you have no other options, or you receive directions from a pharmacist or healthcare professional to do so, then flush the flushable medications.

If you've flushed medications previously or you just want to make sure your septic tank isn't in jeopardy from other chemicals you or others may have put in the drain, seek professional septic tank pumping services. The service can ascertain the health of your septic system and help you keep it in good shape going forward. 

For more information about septic pumping services, contact a local company.