Residents may be on their own when dealing with discarded needles
Province relies on municipalities to be ‘pro-active’
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.”
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.”
Needles found on the property of Jim and Wena Snow in Lewisporte.