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'I'm terrified to swim': Needles at North Bay beach have resident worried

She's been finding needles washed up on the Preston St. public access and feels helpless. She raked the beach over the weekend and estimates she found up to 20 needles

Nathalie McDowell is frustrated and fed up.

She's been finding needles washed up on the Preston St. public access and feels helpless. She raked the beach over the weekend and estimates she found up to 20 needles.

"Those needles are dangerous," she told BayToday. "They are being used and left on the beach and thrown in the water."

The beach access is across from Nipissing Plaza on Lakeshore Drive. McDowell and her neighbours have been cleaning the beach for some time now, but she's reached the breaking point.

"I get that there's a lot of homelessness and I'm not going to start judging drug users. All I know is that if a child is to step on that beach...I've told everybody to be very careful. I'm questioning going into the water because of what I see. I just don't feel comfortable swimming in those waters. I have a paddle board, but there's kids that play there, and lots of them.

"I'm terrified...terrified to go in the water. I had no idea. It never dawned on me."

She recommends wearing water shoes for anyone going swimming.

McDowell moved here from London Ontario six years ago and says this problem is everywhere, but has never seen it this bad.

"It's everywhere. I didn't anticipate it wouldn't be there. I just didn't think it would be there in spades, and that I'd be seeing it in the water."

She believes the needles come from tenants at an apartment building north of the beach.

"That beach is probably the tip of the iceberg. The one that's really got it bad is probably the one further down Lakeshore (Marshall). I would stay the hell away."

McDowell says neighbours like her clean and rake the beach because they all enjoy using it, but enough is enough. High water may be playing a role, with more debris being washed up than normal. A flood warning has been issued for the shoreline.

"You couldn't see the sand, it was covered in leaves. It was covered in wood. It was covered in dirt. There was no sand. It was dirt to water."

And she's disappointed by the City's response. She has asked multiple times for a crew to be sent to haul away the debris that she raked up into a pile on the beach.

McDowell says when she called the City she was told, "They have nothing to do with that. Then they put me on to public works and I got transferred four times. Then I emailed somebody. And then I emailed somebody again at the city of North Bay and heard nothing to this day. And I told the neighbors that Public Works had told me they guaranteed they had a team coming to get that pile Monday because it was urgent and they got a call about it already."

The pile was still there Thursday afternoon.

"The City is responsible for cleaning up discarded sharps on public property, including beaches, parks, trails, sidewalks, boulevards, and roadways," Communications Officer Gord Young told BayToday. "City staff conduct regular sweeps of these areas as part of their daily duties and respond to reports from the public. We are also currently working on simplifying the process for reporting and picking up discarded sharps on public property by introducing a central phone number (705-474-4340) and an online submission form.

"In this instance, staff was dispatched to the Preston Street public access but were unable to locate the reported sharps. We are following up with the caller to resolve the issue."

That's small consolation for McDowell.

"Raking and trying to clean, like relentlessly, it was a hard thing to do. I can't move my body very well right now because of bad health. I think it was eight hours I put into that because I have to comb through everything with a knife to make sure I'm not picking up needles, oh Jesus."



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Jeff Turl

About the Author: Jeff Turl

Jeff is a veteran of the news biz. He's spent a lengthy career in TV, radio, print and online, covering both news and sports. He enjoys free time riding motorcycles and spoiling grandchildren.
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