Tons of expired drugs end up in water catchments that are used for vital services and irrigation of crops. The Environment Inspectorate orders the Municipality of Zall-Her to remove waste, the Commune: There should be found a special disposal area. Ministry of Health and that of Environment, no solution to the issue
By Endrit Habilaj
Tons of expired drugs are disposed without being destroyed near the lake of Bovilla in the capital city. There are several tons of expired medicines issued by public hospitals, pharmaceutical warehouses or even pharmacies that instead of being destroyed in a special plant are disposed in an open environment, threatening seriously the health of people living nearby. Investigim.al publishes the scandal with pharmaceutical waste treatment, where it discovered a dumping site in Dajti area. Expired medicines, various medical materials are disposed in the vicinity of the Bovilla lake in the tourist area known as “The scale of Tujan” in the Valley of Tirana River. The Association of Journalists for Justice possesses pictures of the dumping site with hazardous pharmaceuticals waste.
The rocky mountainous terrain has favored this environmental criminal offense where pharmaceutical residues end up in the reservoir used for irrigation of crops in east areas of Tirana and to the outskirts of Kruja. Environmentalists sound the alarm as according to them this hazardous pharmaceuticals waste threaten the lives of over 30 thousand residents in Tirana and Kruja, who use the water resources of the Bovilla lake for vital services and irrigation of farmland and orchard.
“These residues pass to the groundwater and then get mingled during floods invading thus cultivated land. Then through cultivated vegetables or fruit, side effects end up in the human body. And the result of all this is the creation of 7700 cancer types that have appeared during a year. It is no coincidence having so many cases of cancer in this country, where environmental pollution is translated into health syndrome” says environmentalist Sazan Guri.
National Drug Agency explains that every pharmacy, pharmaceutical warehouse but even state hospitals have a legal obligation to provide information about the expiration date of medicines which must then be destroyed. “If pharmacies do not provide information about the expired medicines and their final destination, the National Drug Agency provides administrative measures up to suspension of the activity” said an official of the agency. As with hospital waste, in the decision of the Council of Ministers for the treatment of hospital and pharmaceuticals waste, the Ministry of Health is stated to be the responsible institution for controlling the process together with the Ministry of Environment. But so far both these institutions have not reacted by taking the necessary measures to deal with the scandal either.
Pharmaceutical waste disposal has also caused an institutional clash between the Ministry of Environment and Commune of Zall-Her. Environmental Inspectorate has asked the Municipality of Zall-Her to remove into a period of 5 days the hazardous pharmaceuticals waste. But according to representatives of the Municipality, this does not constitute in a solution as pharmaceutical waste cannot be transported to another place, but should be destroyed in special plants. The Head of the services office in the Zall Her Commune, Xhavit Xhepa, explains that the commune was ready to remove expired medicines from the area but the problem was their dumping site, taking into account the nature of this hazardous waste that cannot be deposited in ordinary landfills.
For this reason, Xhepa declares that they have refused the Order of Environment Inspectorate. “The order was not executed. The reason was that, given that they are pharmaceutical waste and have a more special nature than urban waste, the difficulty remains to their dumping sites. We sent an official letter where we ask for information about the place where to deposit these residues. Our readiness has been to remove these residues, but the question is where we will take them. We have not received any response and information yet from the Ministry of Environment”, said Head of the services office in the Zall Her commune, Xhavit Xhepa.
The Association of Journalists for Justice owns the request of the Mayor of Zall Her, Gani Alushi, who has officially asked from the Ministry of Environment information about the place where to deposit the waste. While the Ministry of Environment does not give any response, Zall Her commune has requested assistance from other law enforcement institutions such as the Ministry of Health and Prefecture of the Tirana region. But even by these two institutions he has not received any help to resolve this issue.
Pharmaceutical waste scandal becomes even more serious due to hundreds of subjects such as pharmacy, pharmaceutical warehouse or even hospitals that until today do not have a contract for their disposal, while it is not known where their destination is and whether there are other sites like this of Zall-Her. In our country there is only one licensed company for the management of pharmaceutical waste, which under the conditions specified in the environmental permit, waste is exported to be eliminated in Greece.
The situation of hospital waste treatment is critical in almost all cities of the country. Not only large public hospitals, but also other health institutions including private ones do not respect the rules for the disposal of medical waste that they generate, by throwing them in free spaces of public places near inhabited areas or in urban waste bins. Very few medical institutions in our country have signed contracts for the treatment of hospital waste, while the responsible ministries that of Health and Environment seems to have left “free will” to these dangerous pollutants by not taking appropriate punitive measures.
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