Nova Scotia

Flood victims warned of scavengers in Sydney

Municipality says scavenging can present a health hazard and affect insurance claims.

Cape Breton Regional Municipality says picking through the trash of flood victims can present a health hazard

Cape Breton Regional Municipality's public works manager said he's heard of situations where flood soaked items have ended up being for sale online. (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC)

Officials with the Cape Breton Regional Municipality are warning flood victims to watch for people scavenging from the water-soaked items they've put out at the curb. 

John Phalen, public works manager with CBRM, said the municipality has received reports of people rooting through flood victims' damaged belongings that are put out on the street for pick up. 

"But you got to realize it's different than the regular heavy garbage pick up," said Phalen. "These are people's belongings, and their mementos and so on and stuff that they don't really want to lose but it's out there."

'Treasure finders' 

Phalen said the municipality is trying to discourage "treasure finders," from the practice, which can be common on regular large garbage pick-up days. He said picking through the trash of flood victims can be unsafe.

"A lot of these places have had sewage and oil contamination, so there is a health hazard there as well. So stay away from it," said Phalen. "They're having a hard enough time as it is."

Phalen said the municipality has also heard of situations where flood soaked items ended up being for sale online. CBC has not been able to confirm that claim.

"Opportunists, I suppose," said Phalen. "Let's leave it alone and let the people deal with their own problems as they are right now."

'Watch your things'

Phalen said the theft of items from the curb can also affect insurance claims if victims haven't finished documenting all of their damaged goods . 

Flood victim Felicia Abbass said a police officer warned her of the problem. 

"He said watch your things, because what's happening is they're going up to properties, you're putting out your washer and dryer saying that they were damaged, and these people are taking them to their house before their [insurance] agent can get there and saying yep, that's my washer and dryer," said Abbass.

Cape Breton police said there have been no formal complaints of theft, but they are aware of the problem.


Stephanie vanKampen


Stephanie vanKampen is a videojournalist with the CBC News in Prince Edward Island. Send story ideas to stephanie.vankampen