Determining responsibility of needle disposal

Property owners must clean up used needles if found on property

A homeowner in Alberta Avenue says she’s been “left on her own” when it comes to safely disposing of used needles on her property. 

When the homeowner, who declined to be interviewed by Rat Creek Press, found used syringes and other garbage on her back driveway next to the alley, she called 311. But because it was on private land, she was told City staff won’t clean it up. 

It was a breaking point. She posted on Facebook photos showing the scattered clothing, wrappers, and syringes to be with “a few inches and maybe a foot or so” over her property line and within arm’s reach of the alley. She emailed her ward councillor and the mayor. 

Capital City Cleanup is responsible for needle pick up and disposal in the city. 

According to Adrienne Cloutier, City spokesperson, there’s a different response depending on whether needles are called in for public or private land. 

The City focuses its efforts on needle collection and disposal on public property. At this time, the City is not removing needles on private property for a number of reasons,” stated Cloutier in a written memo. “We will be exploring these practices in the future.” 

A local resident took a picture of needles on her property, which were just over her property line within arm’s reach of pick-up from the alley. | Supplied

Commenting on the situation with the noted property, she explains that needles on private property are the responsibility of the property owner; however, this was a particular instance. 

“(It) may have warranted City staff removing the needle given we had owner permission to do so and the needle was accessible from public property. However, staff was following the policies and procedures in place for needle pick up.”

Cloutier says staff did go afterward to check on this situation, but any needles and debris had already been removed. 

Data from calls on private land is important to help determine where more public education is needed, and the City does want people to call them in, either on 311 or by using the 311 app. 

This data is important to help determine if more public education is needed on how to deal with needles on private property. “If a property owner consistently finds discarded needles on their property, the data will help us to install a safe needle disposal box in the vicinity of the location.”  

The most calls for needles on public property last year were in the downtown, McCauley, and Central McDougall neighbourhoods. Next highest were Alberta Avenue and Spruce Avenue. The top three neighbourhoods for needles collected were McCauley, at 142, downtown, at 60, and Alberta Avenue, at 51.

Cloutier says the best way to dispose of a used needle, if you want to safely do it yourself, is to pick it up pointing away from your body with tongs or thick gloves. So as to not harm people such as garbage handlers, place needles in a metal or hard plastic sealed container and label it ‘used needles’. 

“And finally, wash hands with soap and water,” she urges.  

But children don’t read websites or posters. 

To stay on top of playground safety, Cloutier explains City staff do preventative maintenance on every City-owned playground once every two weeks from April to October and once a month from November to March. 

The City collects data on used needles found on private property. | Supplied

If there’s an immediate concern, it’s dealt with as soon as possible. 

“Staff have machine sifters to sift the sand. In addition, the sand is raked to fill low spots, and this is a secondary measure to conduct minor sand sifting.”

Green Shack staff also check sand and play areas for hazardous items. But since not all playgrounds are City owned, Cloutier advises to check before children go into any playground. 

If you call in a needle after hours, Fire Rescue is dispatched in instances when it poses an immediate threat, such as a school yard or dog park. Otherwise, the call will be dispatched for pick up starting at 8 a.m. the next morning.


NEEDLE DISPOSAL BOXES

Bissell Thrift Store on 118 Avenue, on 95 Street at the far west end of the lot facing 117 Avenue, and at Commonwealth Stadium at the SE corner of 90 Street and 112 Avenue.

MORE INFORMATION

For needle disposal locations and other data: edmonton.ca/needlemap.

To learn more: edmonton.ca/needles.

For Capital City Clean Up program inquiries, call 311 or email capitalcitycleanup@edmonton.ca


Featured Image: The City only collects used needles found on public property. | Supplied

Kate Wilson

Kate took up the reporter's pad and pen while living in northern Alberta. The writing bug stuck, and the next 20 years were spent covering everything from local politics to community happenings. She lives in Alberta Avenue with her daughter.

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