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DNRE urges caution around syringes

The Department of Natural Resources and Environment has received recent reports of syringes washing up on Lake Michigan-area beaches from Shelby to Arcadia. It is suspected that the syringes are from a major combined sewer overflow that occurred in the Milwaukee area on July 25.

Wind and lake currents are suspected to have carried the syringes and other waste across the lake, resulting in the waste washing up on the Michigan shoreline. The U.S. Coast Guard has also been made aware of the incident and is investigating its source.

“These syringes have the potential to harbor bacteria and viruses that can spread infectious diseases such as hepatitis or HIV, and anyone coming across one is encouraged to use extreme caution to avoid being stuck with the needle,” said Liz Browne, assistant division chief of the DNRE’s Environmental Resource Management Division.

Browne added that syringes should only be picked up with extreme caution, preferably with puncture-resistant gloves, and placed in a heavy plastic container, such as a detergent bottle with a screw on cap or a coffee can with a taped-down lid. Syringes can be taken to the Manistee County Medical Care Facility at 1505 E. Parkdale Ave. in Manistee and/or at the entrance booth to Ludington State Park. The DNRE does not recommend placing the syringes in regular household trash, as this can expose waste collection company workers to potential needle stick injuries. All other solid waste collected from the shoreline can be disposed of by property owners with their regular household trash.

Recommended disposal methods for syringes generated by individuals on a daily basis due to self-homecare treatment of medical conditions can be found in a DNRE pamphlet titled “The Point is…Needles Hurt!” That pamphlet, a list of sharps collection programs and services by county, and other information can be found on the DNRE’s website at http://www.michigan.gov/deqmedwaste.

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