Michigan Earth Day 2007 Project Nets Over Ton of Pharmaceuticals Plus Estimated $500,000 in Narcotics as Religion, Environment Groups Protect Drinking Water

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Northern Michigan residents turn in one ton of drugs plus additional narcotics worth estimated $500,000 at 19 free collections sites across the Upper Peninsula. The Earth Day 2007 project targeted all old and unwanted pharmaceuticals and personal care products like shampoos, lotions and perfumes. The third annual Earth Keeper Clean Sweep was sponsored by nine faith communities (Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, United Methodist Church, Unitarian Universalist, Baha'i, Jewish, and Zen Buddhist), the Superior Watershed Partnership, the Cedar Tree Institute, and the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community. About 2,000 people turned in drugs that many collected from family and friends. Assistance was provided by the Michigan Pharmacists Association and numerous law enforcement agencies including the DEA and Michigan Sheriff's Association. Funded by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Thrivent Financial, the EPA says pharmaceutical collections are important because when flushed or dumped down the drain trace amounts of the medicines return in drinking water and rivers because water treatment plants are not designed to remove those chemicals that are harmful to wildlife and possibly humans. Northern Michigan religious leaders says the results show their environmental message is being heard. Previous collections netted nearly 400 tons of household poisons, vehicle batteries, old computers and cells phones -- all recycled or properly disposed.

Northern Michigan residents turned in tens of thousands of pills plus narcotics with an estimated street value of half a million dollars during the third annual Earth Keeper Clean Sweep.

Superior Watershed Partnership Director Carl Lindquist said over one ton of medicines and personal care products were turned in by the public during the 2007 Pharmaceutical Clean Sweep.

Organizers said the collected narcotics have an estimated street value of $500,000.

"We had a great public turnout," Lindquist said.

The collection was sponsored by nine faith communities (Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, United Methodist Church UMC, Unitarian Universalist, Baha'i, Jewish, and Zen Buddhist), the Superior Watershed Partnership, the Cedar Tree Institute, and the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community.

About 2,000 people turned in pharmaceuticals but many collected from family and friends.

Assistance was provided by the Michigan Pharmacists Association and law enforcement including the DEA and Michigan Sheriff's Association.

"As we heal and cleanse the Earth, we are also healing the human heart," said Lutheran Rev. Jon Magnuson, event founder and head of Northern Michigan University (NMU) Lutheran Campus Ministry.

Sponsors include the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Thrivent Financial for Lutherans.

The EPA says trace amounts of pharmaceuticals are turning up in America's drinking water.

"This is an ideal approach for grassroots community members and the faith-based community to work with the federal government, American Indians and others to achieve environmental gain," said Chicago EPA official John Perrecone while visiting collection sites.

Lutheran Mary Sloan Armstrong of Harvey brought 18 large dust-covered bottles of medicine that belonged to her late father, Illinois druggist J.K. Sloan.

"This stuff goes back about one hundred years," said Marquette pharmacist Dave Campana.

Pharmacist Kent Jenema said a turn-of-the-century "doctor's traveling pharmacy" kit was left at the Marquette St. Peter Catholic Cathedral.

"Some of the most abused things in the area are prescription drugs and a lot of people after they get their prescription refilled don't use them," said Marquette Police officer Brandon Boesl.

"Lots of controlled substances came through that won't get sold or end up in the water," said Lutheran Rev. Tari Stage-Harvey of St. Ignace.

Marquette pharmacist Bob Hodges said controlled drugs were inventoried as "required by law."

The Earth Keeper collection is an example of "community engagement in properly disposing of pharmaceuticals (that) will help us stop and prevent prescription drug abuse, and the harm it can cause," said U.S. Drug Czar John Walters.

A study revealed 14 percent of Marquette area students admit using prescription medication to get high.

"A lot of times prescription drugs that are suitable for abuse can be stolen from people for whom they are prescribed," said social worker Paul Olson.

Katherine Grier said her mother was "addicted to prescription pain killers and sleeping pills" so she hid the drugs because she "did not want to flush them down the toilet."

Ishpeming Police Officer Robert Sibley said addicts burglarize homes to get drugs and "either use it themselves or sell it on the streets."

Gladstone First Lutheran Church Rev. Jonathan Schmidt said the collection shows "care of the environment and the need to remove drugs that might be abused."

NMU student Miranda Revere said Delta County Prosecutor Steve Parks described the problem of "teens abusing prescription drugs" so finding volunteers "was not difficult."

Marquette Messiah Lutheran Church Pastor Nancy Amacher said, "We believe the earth is God's created gift and part of our stewardship is to care for ourselves as well as the forests, waterways and their inhabitants."

Marquette Baha'i spiritual assembly chair Dr. Rodney Clarken said, "The interfaith aspect of this project has given it a unique energy and power" and hopes people will connect protecting the Earth and their spiritual beliefs."

10-year-old Eve McCowen volunteered with her parents and other Baha'i at a Lutheran church.

"We came here to collect the vitamins, pills and any other medicines -- so they won't pollute the earth," said McCowen, a fourth grader.

Lutheran Don Flint dropped the old drugs off at an Ironwood Catholic church because it's not right "to flush pharmaceuticals down the toilet."

The NMU EarthKeeper Student Team traveled hundreds of miles to all collections sites.

A Lutheran, NMU student project director Jennifer Simula said the students "all have smiles on their faces" and are letting everyone know "they are involved in a great project."

Botany major Michael Rotter was amazed "a 21-year-old Buddhist college kid can sit down and talk to a 30-year-old pharmacist and we can both relate to the 50-year-old Methodist pastor."

Some people "dropped off pharmaceuticals for friends and family members," said NMU student Ashley Ormson, a member of Lutheran Campus Ministry.

NMU student Matt Nordine enjoyed the four-hour round drive to St. Ignace "to actively participate in Earth Day."

NMU student Lauren Murphy said it's easy to mix good grades with environmental work because "we keep a good balance."

"We collected a lot of medicines, old suntan lotions, eye drops, cosmetics and other stuff like that," said NMU student Kristy Knutson.

UMC of St. Ignace Rev. Jim Balfour said "it is wonderful to work in a community where the churches come together easily to address the threats to God's world," Pastor Balfour said.

Presbyterian Earth Keeper Sue Piasini of Sagola, MI, saw a flock of geese while going to the clean sweep and thought "we are going to take care of the water for you."

Marquette Lutheran Bishop Thomas A. Skrenes said the public had an "eagerness about being a part of the solution" at the Fortune Lake Lutheran Bible Camp in Iron County.

Marquette Roman Catholic Bishop Alexander Sample said it's "wonderful to see that the younger generation is at the heart of this Earth Keepers effort."

Catholic Earth Keeper Kyra Fillmore said "people were unloading medicines from deceased relatives or from past illness."

Catholic Earth Keeper Linda O'Brien said the drug collection allowed participants to "shed the reminder of pain from loved ones."

Marquette Episcopal Bishop James Kelsey said "care for the environment is an expression of love for God and one another."

Jewish Earth Keeper Jacob Silver of Temple Beth Sholom said the planet's future will depend on how youth are motivated by adults because "for Jews, the earth is all we have."

Earth Keeper Rev. Charlie West of the Grace UMC in Marquette said church members "felt really good about providing this service for the community."

Zen Buddhist Head Priest Paul Lehmberg of the Lake Superior Zendo Temple said "we're passing along our worry" over the condition of the earth to youth.

Rev. Lehmberg said his 15-year-old daughter, Freya, and Rev. West's 13-year-old son, Christopher, were excited to volunteer

UMC Marquette District Superintendent Grant R. Lobb said the words "cleaner water" kept popping into his mind while watching people drop off pharmaceuticals.

Catholic Earth Keeper Kelly Mathews said "some people brought in bottles with 50 to 80 pills" and "I found the financial waste totally unnecessary."

Unitarian Earth Keeper Gail Griffith agreed the waste of medicine in America is sad because some pharmaceuticals "end up as trash, but we need to insure that trash doesn't end up harming our waters."

Presbyterian Earth Keeper Lynnea Kuzak was thanked by a resident who wanted her late husband's cancer medication properly disposed.

Joy Ibsen of Trout Creek Trinity Lutheran Church said "the earth and water is allergic to many powerful prescriptions and chemicals."

Mary Klups of Ontonagon County brought in pain and blood pressure medication leftover from her late husband's cancer treatment.

White Pine pharmacist Chuck Blezek said people were told to flush old prescriptions down the toilet but "only lately that we've found out that it's the wrong thing to do."

Munising UMC site coordinator Phil Hansen said some participants "brought in large quantities" of drugs.

The previous two cleans sweeps gathered nearly 400 tons of hazardous waste including household poisons, vehicle batteries, old computers and cell phones -- all was properly disposed or recycled.

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Over one ton of drugs collected plus estimated $500,000 in narcotics during Earth Day 2007 Pharmaceutical Clean Sweep across northern MichiganOver one ton of drugs collected plus estimated $500,000 in narcotics during Earth Day 2007 Pharmaceutical Clean Sweep across northern MichiganOrganizers say over one ton of pharmaceuticals and personal care products like shampoos and perfumes were collected during the third annual Earth Keeper Clean Sweep at 19 sites across northern Michigan. The annual Earth Day project also brought in thousands of narcotics including pills and liquids estimated to be worth $500,000 on the street. About 400 volunteers participated including Northern Michigan University students, nine faith communities, the Superior Watershed Partnership, the Cedar Tree Institute and the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community. (Photo by Greg Peterson)Police and pharmacists were at all 19 of the collection sites during 2007 Pharmaceutical Clean Sweep on Earth Day across northern MichiganPolice and pharmacists were at all 19 of the collection sites during 2007 Pharmaceutical Clean Sweep on Earth Day across northern MichiganIshpeming, MI Police Officer Robert Sibley observes as Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan Bishop James Kelsey (left) turns in old and unwanted medicines to pharmacist Steve Lyford (right) at the St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church collection site in Ishpeming on Earth Day during the successful 2007 Pharmaceutical Clean Sweep. “To dispose of these medicines in a safe way is a real good idea,” Lyford said. Drug addicts and burglars "will break into people's homes and steal these narcotic drugs ... they will either use it themselves or sell it on the streets," said officer Sibley, one of dozens of law enforcement officers stationed at the 19 collection sites. "This is a big problem and we are working on it all the time." Bishop Kelsey said he hopes that others will follow the example of the Earth Keeper team and that the clean sweeps are "a catalyst for a movement much bigger than our demographics" in remote northern Michigan with a population of about 250,000 people spread across hundreds of square miles. "Care for the environment is an expression of love for God and one another," said Kelsey, who serves as Bishop for 27 Episcopal congregations with 2,500 members in the U.P. (Photo by Greg Peterson)Religion and environmental leaders join forces to protect drinking water and Great LakesReligion and environmental leaders join forces to protect drinking water and Great LakesMonsignor Louis C. Cappo, (center) rector of the St. Peter Catholic Cathedral in Marquette, MI discusses the 2007 Pharmaceutical Clean Sweep with EPA Official John Perrecone (right) and Carl Lindquist, (left) director of the Superior Watershed Partnership. The clean sweeps are sponsored by the Superior Watershed Partnership and the Cedar Tree Institute, both Marquette-based non-profit environmental organizations. The project involves the congregations of over 140 churches and temples representing nine faith communities (Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, United Methodist Church, Unitarian Universalist, Baha'i, Jewish, and Zen Buddhist) From the Midwestern Region of EPA located in Chicago, Perrecone visited several of the collection sites and praised the Superior Watershed Partnership and the Earth Keeper team for its organization and success pulling off the largest geographical pharmaceutical collection in U.S. History. "From the EPA's prospective this is an ideal approach for grassroots community members and the faith-based community to work with the federal government, American Indians and others to achieve environmental gain," said Perrecone, Ecosystem Projects Manager. (Photo by Greg Peterson)Earth Keeper Initiative signers document shows pledge by religious leaders to actively protect environment and reach out to American Indian communitiesEarth Keeper Initiative signers document shows pledge by religious leaders to actively protect environment and reach out to American Indian communitiesFounded by Lutheran Rev. Jon Magnuson in Marquette, MI four years ago, the Earth Keeper Initiative began with this document signed by the leaders of nine faith communities who pledged to actively protection the environment and reach out to the many American Indian communities across northern Michigan. This has led to the annual Earth Keeper Clean Sweep that targets a form of hazardous waste to be collected each Earth Day. The 2007 Pharmaceutical Clean Sweep collected over one tons of drugs and an estimated $500,000 in narcotics and other controlled substances at 19 collection sites across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Previous clean sweeps have collected nearly 400 tons of household poisons, vehicle batteries, old computers and cell phones - all recycled or properly disposed. The document has also led to the creation of the Northern Michigan University EarthKeeper Student Team that has many of its own projects including Adopt-A-Watershed involving cleaning and studying tributaries to three of the Great Lakes and is trying to expand to three other colleges. Rev. Magnuson is director of Lutheran Campus Ministry at NMU.Elderly northern Michigan man brings family as he drops off drugs at a Catholic church collection site on Earth Day 2007Elderly northern Michigan man brings family as he drops off drugs at a Catholic church collection site on Earth Day 2007Ishpeming, MI resident Seth Johnson (on right in blue jacket) turns over a large amount of old and unwanted pharmaceuticals to pharmacist Steve Lyford (second from left) during the successful 2007 Pharmaceutical Clean Sweep on Earth Day across northern Michigan. Also pictured at Table, from left, are Ishpeming Police Officer Robert Sibley, Lyford, volunteer Angela Stasewich, and Marquette General Hospital pharmacist Renee Koski. Also pictured are Johnson’s family and (in background, second from right, in blue shirt) Earth Keeper volunteer Donna Kumpula. The medicines were turned in at the St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church collection site in Ishpeming. (Photo by Greg Peterson)Century old pharmacists traveling kit turned in at Catholic Cathedral in northern Michigan during 2007 Pharmaceutical Clean SweepCentury old pharmacists traveling kit turned in at Catholic Cathedral in northern Michigan during 2007 Pharmaceutical Clean SweepMarquette County Sheriff’s Department Captain David Lemire (right) watches as Marquette, MI pharmacist Kent Jenema (left) shows antique medications to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency official John Perrecone (middle) at the St. Peter Catholic Cathedral collection site in Marquette during the successful 2007 Pharmaceutical Clean Sweep on Earth Day across northern Michigan, the third annual Earth Keeper hazardous waste collection. The clean sweeps are sponsored by the Superior Watershed Partnership and the Cedar Tree Institute, both Marquette-based non-profit environmental organizations. The “turn-of-the century” black folding case containing eight small bottles filled with powders. “This is what would have been a doctor’s traveling pharmacy,” said Marquette pharmacist Kent Jenema, while showing the leather zippered case to an EPA observer. “This has a lot of old patent type medications from mostly natural sources that predates some of the pharmacy that we know today.” “From the EPA’s prospective this is an ideal approach for grassroots community members and the faith-based community to work with the federal government, American Indians and others to achieve environmental gain,” said John Perrecone, EPA Ecosystem Projects Manager. (Photo by Greg Peterson)Pharmacists turned counted all controlled substances during Earth Day project and turned the narcotics and other drugs over to awaiting police officersPharmacists turned counted all controlled substances during Earth Day project and turned the narcotics and other drugs over to awaiting police officersMarquette General Hospital pharmacist Bob Hodges (right) hands controlled substances to Marquette Police officer Brandon Boesl, as pharmacist Dave Campana (center) observes, at the Messiah Lutheran Church collection site during the successful 2007 Pharmaceutical Clean Sweep on Earth Day across northern Michigan. The clean sweeps are sponsored by the Superior Watershed Partnership and the Cedar Tree Institute, both Marquette non-profit environmental organizations. The project involves the congregations of over 140 churches and temples representing nine faith communities (Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, United Methodist Church, Unitarian Universalist, Baha'i, Jewish, and Zen Buddhist). (Photo by Greg Peterson)Young Baha’i girl volunteers again at Lutheran church during Earth Keeper Clean Sweep across northern MichiganYoung Baha’i girl volunteers again at Lutheran church during Earth Keeper Clean Sweep across northern MichiganDuring the successful 2007 Pharmaceutical Clean Sweep on Earth Day, 10-year-old Eve McCowen of Marquette, MI (foreground on right) carries a plastic grocery bag full of personal care products and non-prescription medications that she will dump into large holding containers at the Messiah Lutheran Church collection site in Marquette. McCowen is shown getting instructions from her father Dennis McCowen (left), both are from the Marquette Baha’i Spiritual Assembly. Also pictured are retired pharmacist Charles King (second from left), Northern Michigan University EarthKeeper student team members Kristy Knutson and Lauren Murphy, who are sorting through medications dropped off by the public; and Marquette Bahai’ leader Dr. Rod Clarken, who listens to Messiah Lutheran Church Pastor Nancy Amacher and Earth Keeper founder Rev. Jon Magnuson, the director of Lutheran Campus Ministry at NMU. "We came here to collect the vitamins, pills and any other medicines - so they won't pollute the earth anymore," said McCowen, a fourth grader, who volunteered with her parents and other members of the Marquette Baha'i Spiritual Assembly. "There has been a lot of stuff and I have been dumping them into this barrel," said McCowen with a huge grin. (Photo by Greg Peterson)Daughter of late druggist brings century old bottles filled with old medicines to Marquette Lutheran church during 2007 Pharmaceutical Clean SweepDaughter of late druggist brings century old bottles filled with old medicines to Marquette Lutheran church during 2007 Pharmaceutical Clean SweepMarquette pharmacist Dave Campana (right) reads the label of an antique bottle apparently containing liniment oil that was among several very old drugs that Mary Sloan Armstrong of Harvey brought to the Messiah Lutheran Church collection site in Marquette during the successful 2007 Pharmaceutical Clean Sweep on Earth Day across northern Michigan, the third annual Earth Keeper hazardous waste collection project. A Lutheran, Armstrong brought 18 large dust-covered antique bottles filled with liquids and powders to the Messiah Lutheran Church collection site in Marquette. The medicines - some with Latin labels - belonged to Armstong’s late father J.K. Sloan, who ran Sloan's Pharmacy in Galva, Illinois for decades prior to his death. "These are drug bottles that were in the basement of my dad's pharmacy," said Armstrong, a member of the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Harvey, MI. "We've had them for about 30 years (since her father's death) and haven't done anything with them. We thought this would be a good chance to get rid of the contents." The drugs that had a variety of deteriorating cork-like lids and some bottles had pre-civil war patents. "This stuff goes back about one hundred years, " said Marquette pharmacist Dave Campana, while lifting several of the bottles out of an old wooden crate. "These are really old powders that they used to make up medications - you don't find these in pharmacies anymore because they don't have a need for it. But they used it years ago," Campana said. "These powders and liquids are considered hazardous waste but they are drugs." (Photo by Greg Peterson)The 2007 Pharmaceutical Clean Sweep across northern Michigan bags over on ton of drugs including some 100-year-old medicinesThe 2007 Pharmaceutical Clean Sweep across northern Michigan bags over on ton of drugs including some 100-year-old medicinesClose up of 18 large dust-covered antique bottles filled with liquids and powders that Mary Sloan Armstrong of Harvey, MI brought to the Messiah Lutheran Church collection site in Marquette. during the successful 2007 Pharmaceutical Clean Sweep on Earth Day across northern Michigan, the third annual Earth Keeper hazardous waste collection project. The bottles, some with pre-civil war patents, were discovered 30 years ago in the basement of her father’s Illinois drug store. It took the third annual Earth Keeper Clean sweep for Armstrong and thousands of other people to get rid of old medications of all kinds. Over one ton of pharmaceuticals were turned in on Earth Day 2007 plus thousands of controlled substance like pain killers. The EPA supports drug collections because traces amounts of the medicines are turning up in America’s drinking water and waterways. (Photo by Greg Peterson)Thousands turn in over one ton of drugs plus a half million dollars in narcotics during Earth Day 2007 project across northern Michigan designed to protect drinking water, rivers and the Great LakesThousands turn in over one ton of drugs plus a half million dollars in narcotics during Earth Day 2007 project across northern Michigan designed to protect drinking water, rivers and the Great Lakes10-year-old Eve McCowen of Marquette, MI dumps a bag full of medications and personal care products into a large holding container at the Messiah Lutheran Church collection site in Marquette, MI during the 2007 Pharmaceutical Clean Sweep across northern Michigan. The clean sweeps are sponsored by the Superior Watershed Partnership and the Cedar Tree Institute, both Marquette-based non-profit environmental organizations; and the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community. The project involves the congregations of over 140 churches and temples representing nine faith communities (Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, United Methodist Church, Unitarian Universalist, Baha'i, Jewish, and Zen Buddhist). "There has been a lot of stuff and I have been dumping them into this barrel," said McCowen with a huge grin. (Photo by Greg Peterson)