Marquette, MI (PRWEB) April 29, 2007
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.