Res­i­dents may be on their own when deal­ing with dis­carded nee­dles

Prov­ince re­lies on mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to be ‘pro-ac­tive’

The Pilot - - Front Page - BY PA­TRICK MUR­PHY Pa­trick.Mur­phy@ad­ver­tis­ernl.ca

In all the years Wena Snow has lived in Lewisporte — which is her en­tire life — the only place she ever saw a needle was in a med­i­cal fa­cil­ity.

That changed about a month ago. Snow’s hus­band Jim was mow­ing the lawn when he spot­ted a twin­kle in among the blades of grass. The shine was no morn­ing dew; it was the sparkle of glass and metal, the shine of a dis­carded needle.

Since the ini­tial dis­cov­ery the cou­ple has found a sec­ond dis­carded needle on their prop­erty.

Snow says her first thought was of hor­ror for what could have hap­pened if the needle was picked up and force­fully ejected by the lawn mower. Her sec­ond thought was of the neigh­bour­hood chil­dren who fre­quent the area, and are by na­ture cu­ri­ous.

“They go out there rid­ing around on that park­ing lot (next to their home),” Snow told the Pilot. “If they hap­pen to see it — you know how quick they are. Be­fore you can stop them, they got it picked up.”

Dis­posal

What fol­lowed was a game of cat and mouse, says Snow. Un­sure of how to dis­pose of the needle, they con­tacted the Town of Lewisporte. The first time the cou­ple found a needle, a town em­ployee came by to dis­pose of the item.

The sec­ond time, the cou­ple was re­ferred to the lo­cal RCMP in Lewisporte. Of­fi­cers gave the cou­ple in­struc­tion on how to dis­pose of the needle, says Snow, but would not come out to col­lect the item.

A call to Cen­tral Health elicited a sim­i­lar re­ply; they could deal with a needle on site, but are un­equipped to ad­dress the is­sue in a pub­lic set­ting. With no one to as­sist them, Jim donned his rub­ber gloves and a pair of bar­beque tongs and placed the dis­carded needle in a bot­tle.

The cou­ple has found a third needle on the prop­erty, and are un­com­fort­able hav­ing to dis­pose of the items, says Snow. Not only is the task a per­sonal risk, but also a risk to any work­ers that might later come in con­tact with the needle, says Snow.

“When garbage day came, (Jim) said, ‘by’s I got a needle in the garbage so I’m go­ing to throw it in the truck,’” said Snow. “It’s only in a drink bot­tle with a stop­per on it, but if they step on it the bot­tle can break.”

The prov­ince has no cen­tral­ized re­sponse unit or process for this type of in­ci­dent, and re­lies on part­ner agen­cies to im­ple­ment re­sponses. East­ern Health has some in­for­ma­tion avail­able on proper dis­posal avail­able for the pub­lic on a pam­phlet.

Ac­cord­ing to Emily Timmins, me­dia re­la­tions man­ager for the Depart­ment of Health and Com­mu­nity Ser­vices, “The depart­ment en­cour­ages mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to be pro-ac­tive in this is­sue and pro­vide work­ers with ap­pro­pri­ate train­ing and gear such as punc­ture-proof gloves and dis­posal boxes.”

Lewisporte Mayor Brian Sce­viour says he un­der­stands the con­cern, and the town will do what it can to ad­dress the is­sue. Some cur­rent town em­ploy­ees are mem­bers of the lo­cal vol­un­teer fire depart­ment, and as such may be al­ready trained to han­dle haz­ardous ma­te­ri­als.

The prop­erty where the nee­dles were found is ad­ja­cent to a park­ing lot owned by the town, and dis­cus­sion about erect­ing a fence be­tween the two prop­er­ties has be­gun.

The mat­ter was only re­cently brought to the at­ten­tion of coun­cil, says Sce­viour, and as a re­sult they are still in the plan­ning phase. Sce­viour says ul­ti­mately res­i­dents may find they have to ad­dress the is­sue on their own, adding that if han­dled prop­erly, re­cov­ery of dis­carded nee­dles is rel­a­tively easy and safe.

“I’m di­a­betic and now I don’t use that type of needle, but I mean, I’m deal­ing with sharp things that I take ev­ery day,” said Sce­viour. “It’s no big deal to dis­pose of it as long as you’re do­ing it safely.”

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Nee­dles found on the prop­erty of Jim and Wena Snow in Lewisporte.

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