On Saturday afternoon, Adrian Hannam made an alarming discovery. Hannam was walking along Weirs Beach in Metchosin around 2 p.m., picking up garbage as he went, as his three-year-old son played in the sand nearby. That’s when Hannam saw it – a needle with an orange cap hidden among rocks along the high tide mark.
“I just get worried because my son is three, he would think it was a decoration for his sandcastle,” he said, noting he carefully picked up the needle and put it in a bowl so he could safely discard it later. “I was just trying to make sure the area was safe for him.”
Hannam, who moved into a home on Weirs Beach in the summer, said his family takes walks on the beach daily, and while he often finds other garbage, this was the first time he found a needle.
But residents who frequent the beach said it isn’t an uncommon occurrence. According to a post in the Metchosin Facebook group, a woman said she found a needle at Albert Head recently. Hannam noted his neighbour says she often finds needles at Weirs Beach as well.
Hannam hopes a sharps container could potentially be installed at either end of the beach to allow people to properly dispose of needles and other items they may find on the beach. Until then, he hopes the discovery serves as a cautionary tale for beach-goers.
“I expect that we will find more. Having the beach be on the edge of your property, it has inherent risks for a child, such as drowning and other things, but adding the potential that he could be struck with a needle that could result in a disease or some type of injury is scary,” he said, adding parents should scout ahead of their kids and make sure they’re aware of what’s around them before putting a blanket down.
“It’s something I didn’t expect to think about living on the beach. It’s something I’ll be more vigilant about.”
Island Health said collecting and safely disposing of needles is a shared responsibility.
“Island Health recognizes and shares the concerns of residents about inappropriately discarded needles. Collecting and safely disposing of needles is a shared responsibility between health care services, community agencies, local government and substance users,” said a statement.
If a needle is found, Island Health suggests picking up the needle using work gloves and tongs or tweezers, holding the needle point away from you, putting it in a metal or hard plastic container with a lid, removing gloves and washing hands thoroughly with soap and water, before dropping it off at a local health unit or a community drop box.