Safe Water for Walton launches first-ever ‘Operation Medicine Cabinet’

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At March 27 Walton County Commission meeting to recognize the first-ever “Operation Medicine Cabinet” in Walton County, from left: SWIX’s CEO, Gene Jones; Commission Chairman Bill Chapman (back); Commissioners Tony Anderson and Cecilia Jones; Schools Superintendent Russell Hughes; Commissioners Sara Comander and Melanie Nipper; and Safe Water for Walton Board members Kelly Layman and Beth Jackson (not pictured: Board members Steve Hall and Katie Fuentes). Credit: Board of County Commissioners

 

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Safe Water for Walton officially launches, with first-ever ‘Operation Medicine Cabinet’ in Walton

When you dispose of unneeded or expired medicines, you might be tempted to flush them down the drain.

Don’t. (Please. Thank you.)

A national movement called “Operation Medicine Cabinet” was in Walton County in late March to provide a free collection service. It’s all about keeping as much pharmaceutical hazardous waste out of the public waterways and drinking water supply chain as possible—from public utilities, private wells and underground freshwater aquifers, to also protecting aquatic wildlife and recreational waters.

Safe Water for Walton, a new local non-profit organization formed in late 2017, presented the event in cooperation with Southern Waste Information Exchange (SWIX), the Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection, Walton County School District and others.

They collected dozens of pounds of medicines at two school parking lots on either end of the county in one day.

Event underwriters were Pedego® Electric Bikes 30A and the local law firm of Hall & Runnels. SWIX is a nationally recognized non-profit clearinghouse that has been serving U.S. Southeastern governmental groups and hundreds of private industry vendors on environmental waste matters since 1981.

“Walton County had one of the most interesting cross-sections of ‘Operation Medicine Cabinet’ participants we’ve seen in a long time—veterans, young parents, retirees, caregivers, just the entire spectrum,” said Gene Jones, CEO of SWIX. “We had a real estate agent who had just assisted with an estate sale—she knew not to just ‘throw out’ the full cabinet of medicines they found.”

Safe Water for Walton and SWIX hope to make this an annual event if the state and local support remains available.

“Walton County government does a good job hosting Hazardous Waste Days for things like paint, used auto oil, and fertilizers. Safe Water for Walton will continue to help promote those events held twice a year—the one back in November even set new records,” said Board member Kelly Layman. “Over-the-counter medicines and pharmaceuticals are a uniquely dangerous type of hazardous waste. They require special handling, for obvious reasons, and they are more insidious to the health of our water supply because they aren’t regulated and screened as strictly.”

Jones said Walton County’s sense of community was terrific, especially for a first-ever “Operation Medicine Cabinet.”

“Our group appreciates the Board and supporters of Safe Water for Walton stepping up. It speaks to how serious they intend to be about emerging or timely national issues like this one,” Jones said.  “These events are a serious undertaking on several fronts, so the assistance of the School District, Sheriff’s Office, volunteers, sponsors, and media was a great team effort.”

SWIX has done 20 such events across the Sunshine State so far.

Email Safe Water for Walton at admin@safewaterforWalton.org if you’re interested in being a future sponsor.

“Operation Medicine Cabinet” also served as the official launch for a summer membership drive for Safe Water for Walton that features a drawing for free Pedego® electric bicycles, valued at $2,295 each!

Two lucky winners will be drawn at a public event in early May.

Stay tuned to the Facebook page, @safewaterforWalton, for this kickoff announcement in April.

Southern Waste Information Exchange’s logistics team, above, came to the area at the request of Safe Water for Walton. SWIX runs “Operation Medicine Cabinet” in partnership with the Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection and adheres to strict medical waste disposal safety, partnering with state-level or local law enforcement for over-watch. Nearly 25 pounds of pharmaceuticals were collected at the morning collection site, above, in DeFuniak Springs. All the plastic or recyclable containers are cleaned and recycled. Another afternoon collection site was held in Santa Rosa Beach.
Credit: Southern Waste Information Exchange