Nfld. & Labrador

Residents on pins and needles, more drug paraphernalia found in St. John's

More used hypodermics have been found in St. John's and residents are on edge.

City needs metal deposit boxes in high risk areas, advocate says

Photos taken at Quidi Vidi Lake by a family on an evening walk. (Amy Jenkins)

Pieces of drug paraphernalia have been found in public areas around St. John's, leaving many residents on pins and needles.

A recent incident around the area of Long's Hill showed someone had smashed open a yellow deposit bin attached to a fence, exposing several used needles.

Social media reports also showed images of hypodermic needles left near the water of Quidi Vidi Lake.

A yellow, plastic needle deposit box was smashed, exposing used needles in a downtown park. Its just one of a growing number of needles being found in St. John's (Martin Jones/CBC)

Currently, the City of St. John's has no safe needle deposit program in place. That's something Tree Walsh has been fighting to change for years.

Walsh manages a needle exchange program (SWAP) at the Tommy Sexton Centre and says metal needle drop boxes are required in areas of known drug use, like Quidi Vidi and Mundy Pond.

We have to be very, very careful about implementation.- Coun. Jonathan Galgay

"Recently, we've been working with the city trying to acquire steel boxes," said Walsh.

"People can simply dispose of their needles in these boxes and SWAP would weekly go around and empty those boxes and make sure the areas are kept clean as well."

Walsh is optimistic the metal boxes, which she said would provide greater safety, will be in place by the end of June.

Tree Walsh manages the needle exchange program at SWAP. She's been fighting to get metal needle deposit boxes at key points in the city for years. (Gary Locke/CBC)

City Coun. Jonathan Galgay gave a somewhat less optimistic timeline.

"We have had open discussion … and we look forward to having broader conversations," said Galgay.

"But again, we have to be very, very careful about implementation. The real lead on all of this has to be the Department of Health in conjunction with Eastern Health."

'We don't want needles unsafely discarded'

As for who left the needle deposit box, Walsh said it could have been the work of a concerned citizen.

"That's someone who's trying to help," said Walsh. 

"The unhelpful part is that's it's plastic and it can be torn open. People can get into it and use the needles that are in there, which is why we don't want needles unsafely discarded anywhere."

Counc. Galgay says the city is in talks to implement a safe needle deposit program, but the lead must be taken by the Department of Health and Eastern Health. (Gary Locke/CBC)

Eastern Health has issued safety guidelines on Twitter for what to do if a needle is found. People are advised to use heavy rubber gloves and a gripping tool to pick up the needle.

The guidelines also state children should never pick up a needle and should let an adult know if they find one.

Galgay said he urges residents to call 311 if they find used needles or any other dangerous material.