What do a boat, two couches and 90 needles have in common?
They’ve all been illegally dumped at the back of Heather Gray’s Avenue L south property in Saskatoon.
“It makes you want to move,” she said. “There’s just no respect.”
Gray has been dealing with other people’s garbage since she moved to the neighbourhood 10 years ago.
Residents routinely have to clean the back alley where their garages are located, finding all sorts of unwanted items.
Gray alone has had to clear away a boat and trailer, Christmas lights and dozens of garbage bags over the years.
“It’s one of the accepted realities of living here,” she said. “What can you do?”
The dumping reached a tipping point for Gray two weeks ago when two couches, a cabinet, a microwave and several garbage bags were dumped along with the large amount of sharp needles.
Gray’s nephew was able to help her out, loading the garbage up in two trips with his pickup truck. They had to pay $160 out-of-pocket to dispose of the items at the landfill.
— Chris Vandenbreekel (@Vandecision) February 13, 2017
City unable to cleanup on private property
Gray initially called the City of Saskatoon for assistance in the cleanup, but bylaw officials told her they were unable to respond to trash on private property.
“We use the surveyed property line,” said Russ Monro, the city’s director of water and waste.
He said if the garbage had been directly in the alley lane, the city would have dealt with it.
“It’s something we deal with year-round,” he said.
Monro noted $80,000 is spent by the city each year on clearing illegally dumped refuse from back lanes across Saskatoon. That money is the equivalent to a three-person crew fixing potholes for the year.
But parks and roadways also deal with cleanup issues, adding to the taxpayer-funded bill.
To help curb the expense, bylaw officers examine the illegal garbage to try and find out where it came from.
“We’re looking at the waste material for a receipt, mail or something like that, that would indicate who it belongs to,” he said.
Once found, the responsible parties are presented with a bill for the cleanup costs.
Firefighters help with needle pickup
Gray did get cleanup help from firefighters, who spent an hour-and-a-half collecting 90 needles.
The Fire Department provides needle pickups as a safety service, and noted the number found on Gray’s property was unusual.
“Normally when we go out we find a couple of sharps that someone has found in a back alley or in the grass,” said Debbie Davies, acting assistant chief of communications.
The department typically doesn’t engage in many cleanups over the winter, with most happening as the snow melts and uncovers discarded sharps.
Davies said in 2015 the department responded to 8,722 instances of discarded needles. In 2016 the number dropped to 6,842 calls.
Taking more precautions
Gray is now installing security cameras to watch over her back lane, in the hope that it’ll deter the dumpers or catch them.
She said she wouldn’t confront them directly, but has a message for any who are listening.
“Think of others,” she said. “Why am I paying to haul your garbage away? Be a little more respectful of people.”
—With files from 650 CKOM’s Daniella Ponticelli.