Where do the drugs go?

June 27, 2016 KOLO 8

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Thousands of pounds of prescription drugs are collected in local take-back programs, but they have to travel across state lines to be properly disposed of. The state is looking for a more efficient process.

Hundreds of pounds of are collected, no questions asked, at the Carson City Sheriff’s Office. Then they are dropped off at the local incinerator.

“On average, we burn between 50-75 pounds each burn and as often as 2-3 a week,” said Marie Martensen, CCSO evidence custodian.

This drug and evidence incinerator is tucked behind Carson City’s corporate yards away from the neighborhoods. It is only authorized to burn contraband and evidence. According to the EPA, it’s the safest way to dispose of these drugs.

“People are flushing them, which we don’t want them to do, or they’re going out in your household waste going out to the landfill, probably not the smartest either because it all ends up in the environment,” said Mike Willden, Governor Sandoval’s Chief of Staff.

Funded by grants, the $35 thousand incinerator is used by agencies across northern Nevada. However, it can only dispose of certain drugs. It’s not licensed for large-scale take-back programs.

The process only allows those drugs to be transported by the DEA to transport them to other states to get rid of them. Tack on disposal fees and labor costs and it could add up. Unlike 24 other states, Nevada doesn’t have a state incinerator, so thousands of dollars are spent sending them to Utah and California.

It can cost upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars to get a state incinerator, but Governor Sandoval believes having and using one could be the most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“Until there aren’t medicines in your grandmother’s medicine cabinet, we want to dispose of them safely,” said Willden.

Legally, the Carson City incinerator can only burn contraband, but it shows a wealth of potential for the state.

“This is truly as efficient as a disposal system as you can expect any community to want and desire and actually have,” said Carson City Sheriff Kenny Furlong.

Governor Sandoval will address the issue in his upcoming drug summit at the end of August. It will take a few years to apply for, get licensed, to monitor and get approved for a state incinerator.