OGDEN -- The city council may adopt a resolution later this month asking police to hold monthly medication take-back events because of Chief Jon Greiner's reluctance to put a pharmaceutical collection box in the lobby of the Ogden Public Safety Building.
The events would be held for one year and would require the police department to provide a report on the program's success, said Bill Cook, the city council's executive director.
"We are trying to move forward (with a medication collection program)," he said.
The city council has been exploring methods of collecting and disposing of unused prescription and over-the-counter medications for about a year as part of its Green Ogden initiative.
Efforts have centered on preventing unused drugs from being scavenged and illegally sold or being flushed, which can contaminate soil, surface water and groundwater.
The city council had considered adopting an ordinance directing the police department to put a permanent lock box for medication collections in the lobby of the public safety building at 2186 Lincoln Ave.
However, Greiner opposes the idea for safety and administrative reasons.
City Council Chairwoman Caitlin Gochnour said having monthly collection events is a good compromise to a permanent disposal bin.
Greiner said he may be receptive to the collection events.
"Anything is possible if the council is appropriating extra money to do it," he said in an email to the Standard-Examiner.
Information about the cost of the collection events was not available from the city council.
Although there are 60 permanent pharmaceutical collection bins in law enforcement facilities around the state, including six in Davis County and eight in Weber County, Greiner is adamant Ogden's public safety building shouldn't have one.
The federal Drug Enforcement Administration has yet to draft formal regulations to implement the Safe and Secure Drug Disposal Act, approved last year by Congress, which allows the public to dispose of controlled substances with authorized entities, said Greiner.
As a result, Greiner is also questioning whether Utah's drug-box collection program administered by the state Department of Environmental Quality is being operated properly.
"We have not been given permission (by DEA) to do what's being done," he said.
Sue Thomas, a spokeswoman for the DEA in Salt Lake City, declined to comment on Greiner's concerns about the program.
However, Leah Ann Lamb, assistant director of the state Division of Water Quality who helped establish the standards for Utah's medication disposal efforts, said her agency is following all DEA requirements.
Lamb is perplexed by Greiner's opposition to the disposal-box program, particularly because the initiative enjoys widespread support from law enforcement officials across the state.
"I don't understand his rationale at all," she said. "He is the only one that has been opposed."
The state developed the Proper Medication Disposal Program in 2007 to provide to Utah households a safe and legal alternative to flushing medications.
The program has provided individual $1,000 grants to law enforcement agencies to install permanent medication collection bins for unused over-the-counter and prescription drugs in the lobbies of their buildings.
As mandated by the DEA, the program requires law enforcement personnel to be present to collect, store and ultimately incinerate medications.
Destruction of evidence by the Ogden Police Department is handled by two civilian employees, not sworn officers like other Weber County law enforcement agencies, Greiner said.
About 10 years ago an Ogden police officer was fired for improper handling and theft of pharmaceutical evidence, said Greiner, who declined to identify the individual.
The police department ultimately switched to civilian personnel for evidence destruction as a cost- saving measure, he added.
There is also concern that placement of medications in a collection bin in the public safety building could cause a chemical reaction, forcing an evacuation of the facility that also houses a dispatch center for law enforcement and emergency service agencies in Weber and Morgan counties, Greiner said.
In addition, there are already several similar receptacles within a short distance of the public safety building, he said.
Lamb said she is unaware of any law enforcement agencies in Utah with collection boxes encountering the problems Greiner listed.
Several law enforcement officials in Weber and Davis counties said they have found the collection boxes successful in giving residents a safe way to dispose of medications.
"A lot of people are utilizing it," said Marci Edwards, a public information officer for the South Ogden Police Department, which collected 523 pounds of pharmaceuticals in a bin in its lobby in 2010.
The Layton Police Department disposed of 1,236 pounds of medication last year placed in its lobby receptacle, said Lt. Garret Atkin.
"It's something the community takes advantage of," he said, describing the drug disposal program as a major success.