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Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago

A program that protects unwanted medicine from entering the water environment will continue through a partnership between the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) and the Cook County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO).

The MWRD Board of Commissioners authorized an intergovernmental agreement between the MWRD and the CCSO in December to support the sheriff’s ongoing drug collection and disposal activities and to expand its network of local law enforcement agencies participating within the MWRD’s boundaries. The Cook County Sheriff’s Prescription Drug Take Back Program collects and destroys unwanted prescription drugs at 129 permanent collection sites. 

Medication Disposal Box
A drug collection receptacle at the MWRD’s Barbara J. McGowan Main Office Building is one of four collection sites that the MWRD offers to the public to drop off unwanted medicine for proper disposal.

Since the partnership began collecting in 2018, more than 40,000 pounds of drugs have been collected, including 7,200 pounds of pharmaceuticals in 2023. Over that time, the CCSO estimates it has destroyed more than 97 million pills through the Drug Take Back Program. In addition, the MWRD has four permanent collection sites and annually participates in the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. 

“Extending this partnership another year allows us to continue an important program that assists in the prevention of pharmaceutical pollution in our waterways and helps continue efforts to maintain a clean water environment,” said MWRD President Kari K. Steele.

The release of medications into sewers can lead to harmful impacts on regional waterways. Pharmaceuticals entering the MWRD’s seven water reclamation plants (WRP) can slip through treatment facilities and enter Chicago area waterways when the MWRD releases clean water back into the environment. These dissolved drugs can then harm fish and plant-life as well as groundwater.

Under the terms of the agreement, the MWRD will contribute $80,000 in 2024 to help fund the costs of personnel to operate the program as well as install new drug collection receptacles. 

"This is just another way to further protect our waterways; this drug take-back program is a win for all,” said Vice President Patricia Theresa Flynn. “As an environmental agency, this is an important step to take on lessening our pharmaceutical footprint. I encourage residents to dispose of unused prescriptions safely and am pleased to have this partnership continue.”

The MWRD accepts unused and expired medications at four locations.  The 38-gallon Medsafe drug collection boxes are located near the main gate at three WRPs and in the lobby of the McGowan Main Office Building in Chicago. If a box is locked, participants are advised not to leave medication outside the box, but to return during hours of operation. Hours and locations of MWRD permanent drug collection boxes are as follows:

McGowan Main Office Building, 100 E. Erie St., Chicago, Mon. – Fri. from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Calumet WRP, 400 E. 130th St., Chicago, 7 days a week from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
O’Brien WRP, 3500 Howard St., Skokie, 7 days a week from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Stickney WRP, 6001 W. Pershing Rd., Cicero, 7 days a week from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Visit the website for more information.


Press Release
Education, Wastewater

Established in 1889, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) is an award-winning, special purpose government agency responsible for wastewater treatment and stormwater management in Cook County, Illinois.


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