Police Chief

Ask the Chief

“Ask The Chief” is a weekly post allowing readers access to useful information about law enforcement issues in the city of Red Wing. This communication tool has been developed to enhance our community policing efforts by providing residents and visitors with the opportunity to ask questions about local laws, programs, and the Department in general.

Submit your question to askthe.policechief@ci.red-wing.mn.us. 

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Nov 13

October 1, 2018 - Proper Pharmaceutical Disposal

Posted on November 13, 2018 at 3:00 PM by Kate Berg

October 1, 2018

Ask the Chief  

 Q:  What is the best way to dispose of unwanted/expired medication?

Image of a sewer cap saying, "Don't flush down the drain or toilet" with instructions to br

Thank you for this important question, the best way to dispose of unwanted medication is through a prescription drug “drop box” or Drug Enforcement Agency “take back” day.  In Red Wing, the nearest drop box is at the Goodhue County Law Enforcement Center, 430 West 6th Street, just inside the front door, to the right.  DEA take-back day is October 27, 2018, and can also be dropped off at our local drop box.  Proper disposal is important for two reasons: first, to keep pharmaceuticals out of our drinking water and second, to help prevent addiction and abuse. 

The Pioneer Press published an article entitled “Pharmaceuticals found in U.S. drinking water” on March 9, 2008, and updated on November 13, 2015 (https://www.twincities.com/2008/03/09/pharmaceuticals-found-in-u-s-drinking-water/).  This article discusses the kind of medication that is found in some tested drinking water and how this medication enters the drinking water system.  Also, AmericanRivers.org stated that pharmaceuticals first showed up in our waterways in 2002 and discussed proper disposal methods (https://www.americanrivers.org/threats-solutions/clean-water/pharmaceuticals-personal-care/).  This article states that on average, Americans fill 3.7 billion prescriptions per year and that the two major causes of pharmaceuticals entering the waterways are medications not fully utilized and excreted from the body and improper disposal of unwanted medication by flushing down the toilet.  Recently, City of Red Wing Wastewater Treatment Plant employees have noticed an increase in the number of pills showing up at the plant.  This tells me that we need to do a better job of getting the word out concerning proper disposal of medications/pharmaceuticals. 

One step in the fight against opioid addiction is proper disposal of medication/pharmaceuticals.  Individuals addicted to opioids have admitted that a good source of pills for their addiction is in the medicine cabinets of family and friends.  To help defeat this, we recommend properly storing your medications in your home and, when no longer needed, dispose of them properly at a local prescription drug “drop box”.  In Red Wing, our drop box is located at the Goodhue County Law Enforcement Center and is accessible 24 hours per day.

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency licenses each drop off location and requires an annual report of how many pounds were disposed of.  In 2017, we disposed of 632 pounds of unwanted medication.  In Minnesota, only two agencies can collect discarded pharmaceuticals:  law enforcement agencies operated by government entities and pharmacies licensed by the Board and authorized by the DEA. The MPCA fact sheet also addresses who can bring pharmaceuticals to a drop box:  pharmaceuticals that include any controlled substances can only be dropped off by the prescription holder, a member of their immediate household, the executor of their property (if they are deceased), or law enforcement agencies.  School staff may not transport students' abandoned controlled substances to a law enforcement collection box by themselves.

Questions regarding prescription drug drop box/take back can be directed to the Red Wing Police Department, Captain Tony Grosso at 651-267-2611.


1. ”Pharmaceuticals found in U.S. drinking water”, Pioneer Press, November 13, 2015.  Found online at  https://www.twincities.com/2008/03/09/pharmaceuticals-found-in-u-s-drinking-water/

2.  “Pharmaceuticals in the Water Supply”, American Rivers.Org, found online at  https://www.americanrivers.org/threats-solutions/clean-water/pharmaceuticals-personal-care/

3.  Minnesota Pollution Control Agency – proper disposal, found online at  https://www.pca.state.mn.us/living-green/managing-unwanted-medications

4.  Minnesota Pollution Control Agency – law enforcement fact sheet, found online at  https://www.pca.state.mn.us/sites/default/files/w-hhw2-06.pdf

5.  WebMD Article on Curbing Drug Abuse, located online at  https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/news/20120925/safe-drug-disposal-curbs-drug-abuse#1

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