What do you do if you have out-dated prescription medicines in your medicine cabinet?

If you answered, "flush them down the toilet," it's not the answer the city of Carlsbad's environmental services department wants to hear.

A recent study shows that 80 percent of U.S. streams contain small amounts of human medicines. Sewage systems cannot remove these medicines from water that is released into lakes, rivers or oceans. Fish and other aquatic animals have shown adverse effects from medicines in the water and even very small amounts of medicine have been found in drinking water.

Today, the city of Carlsbad, in partnership with Eddy County, Keep Carlsbad Beautiful and New Mexico Clean and Beautiful, will offer Eddy County residents an opportunity to dispose of their discarded medicines in a safe manner, as well as other household hazardous waste.

The Carlsbad police, fire and sheriff's departments will be on hand from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. to take old and unused prescriptions during today's 13th annual Great American Clean-up and household hazardous waste collection at the beach parking lot.

However, Carlsbad Police Lt. Jennifer Moyers said residents don't have to wait until the annual household hazardous collection to bring in their old prescription drugs. They can drop them off any time throughout the year at the police department, anonymously, if they wish.

She said thus far, the CPD has collected 140 pounds of discarded prescription drugs.

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In addition to bringing unused prescription drugs to the collection site, residents can bring old tires, batteries, oil, petroleum products, antifreeze, gasoline, solvents, paint and paint thinner, pesticides, herbicides, tires and other items that are considered hazardous and not accepted at the landfill.

Items that won't be accepted include industrial-size containers, business generated waste, explosives, radioactive and bio-medical waste, compressed gas cylinders, asbestos and insulation.

Richard Aguilar, city environmental services superintendent, said each year, the annual household hazardous cleanup has continued to grow in the number of people participating and the volume of hazardous materials brought in for disposal.

According to data provided by Aguilar, Advanced Chemical Transport, the company contracted by the city and working jointly with the city and county in the collection effort, 18,776 pounds of household hazardous waste from 267 residents was brought in during the April 2012 event, averaging about 70 pounds of waste per customer.

Broken down, of the 18,776 pounds, 12,566 pounds of waste was recyclable; 4,542 pounds resulted in energy recovery; and 1,668 pounds was incinerated. "Nothing went into the landfill," Aguilar said. "We think that's pretty good."

Until recently, the annual event was limited to people living inside the city limits. However, when the county joined the effort, the event was opened to all county residents in north and south Eddy County.

Aguilar said as each vehicle comes into the collection site, the driver or other occupant will be asked to fill out a form detailing what is being brought it. "It's more of a bookkeeping thing," he said. "It lets us know what types of things are being brought in and the number of residents that participated." Aguilar said to save time, participants can download and print the form by going to the city of Carlsbad's website at www.cityofcarlsbadnm.com/ then clicking on environmental services.