More discarded needles being found in Ottawa's suburbs

Health workers have made inroads in picking up discarded needles throughout Ottawa’s core but the problem has spread to the suburbs, according to complaints to the City of Ottawa between 2009 and 2013.

Downtown wards Rideau-Vanier and Somerset continue to see most discarded needles, stats show

Ottawa's stats show more needles have been discarded in Ottawa's suburbs over the past five years. (CBC)

CBC News used the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection Privacy Act to obtain an extract of the database the city uses to track property standard complaints about discarded needles and syringes. The data set in the map above covers the period from 2009 to 2013, and shows the city consistently receives complaints about these discarded items.

Click on each red dot for details on that discarded needle.

- David McKie

  • On mobile? Click here for the map. 

Health workers have made inroads in picking up discarded needles throughout Ottawa's core but the problem has spread to the suburbs, according to complaints to the City of Ottawa over the last five years.

CBC News obtained information on discarded needles reported by residents and picked up by workers in each ward of the City of Ottawa from 2009 to 2013.

Statistics show more than half the discarded needles were found in the downtown wards of Rideau-Vanier and Somerset.

But over the last five years, the City of Ottawa's bylaw department has received an average of more than 40 complaints per year for discarded needles in other, more unlikely wards such as Vars, Manotick, Kanata and Orleans.

'One needle too many'

Samantha Churchill can attest to that. She operates a private daycare in the quiet Orleans neighbourhood of Fallingbrook.

A few years ago, Churchill found a discarded needle near her home in a pile of soil, used by many townhouses for their gardens. At the time, she didn't know you could call the city to pick them up, so she discarded it herself.

"When we got there I saw a lovely hypodermic needle sitting next to the pile. So I reached down, I had a plastic bag with me like you would pick up after an animal, and I picked it up and I tied a knot and brought it home with me and put it in my trash can," she said.

"It's terrifying because you don't know what's in it, who's touched it," said Churchill, adding that one needle is one too many.

Samantha Churchill, who runs a private daycare, says a needle was found in her area of Orleans. (CBC)
"It can cause injury. It can pass disease. You don't know what's contained within that."

Fellow Fallingbrook resident Lisa Kaluski said a needle was found on Valade Crescent across from her house.

Kaluski said neighbours suspected a nearby house attracted drug abusers and said when the tenants left last summer, a company specializing in removing junk told her they found many needles inside.

"It's the type of thing that you expect to hear in certain parts of the city, but like I say you never know what goes on behind closed doors," she said.

Needle hunters collected 8,000 needles last year

The number of needles found by residents then reported to bylaw officers is small compared to the number picked up by an agency contracted by Ottawa Public Health, said Craig Calder, a program manager of Ottawa Public Health.

Needle hunters working for the city picked up some 8,000 discarded needles last year alone, said Calder.

Even that represents a tiny fraction of the 1.3 million needles used and disposed, mostly safely, in Ottawa by individuals like diabetics who must administer drugs themselves.

Calder said the city has made inroads, particularly with the addition of 23 needle drop boxes in 2012, bringing the total number of drop boxes in the city to 64.

He said educating drug users on the importance of safe injection practices and proper disposal has also played a role in reducing the number of discarded needles on city streets.

Progress made in downtown core

While the 311 complaint numbers represent only the tip of the iceberg, they do show a significant drop in complaints in the downtown core over the last year.

There were 116 complaints of discarded needles in 2012 in Rideau-Vanier and Somerset wards.

Coun. Bob Monette, who represents the Orleans ward, says he's surprised by the discarded needles found in his ward, but he knows drug use has no boundaries. (CBC)
In 2013, that number had dropped to 53, but the number of complaints in suburban and rural wards, while relatively small, has remained mostly unchanged in the last five years.

Orleans councillor Bob Monette said while finding discarded needles in his ward is surprising, it's a reminder drug abuse knows no borders.

"No communities are immune to drug use. It's a wake-up call that yes, even in Orleans or any suburban community you can have problems with drug use," he said.

With files from Ashley Burke and David McKie


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