WHALLEY — Today is the last day for a needle collection program in the Whalley area after funding has been lost.
“We had two folks out today, and we’re going to have a second team out this afternoon but effectively by 4 o’clock today the program is over,” said Keir Macdonald, deputy executive director of Lookout Emergency Aid Society, which runs the “Rig Dig” needle recovery program.
The program has been around since 2014, noted Macdonald, but it didn’t receive its gaming grant this year. It was a loss of roughly $44,000 and it takes $50,000 to run the program annually, he explained.
Lookout still receives $8,400 from Fraser Health for the initiative, but those dollars are shared with other programs, said Macdonald.
“We hope we can find some way to revive the program again,” he lamented.
The Now went out with the Rig Dig program in July and found 250 needles within two hours. That’s the norm.
Macdonald anticipates the effects of the program’s end will be felt immediately.
“One of the things I worry about is school’s back,” he remarked. “So it’s not just the primary business area that we keep an eye on, the parks, the streets, we do the school areas as well. Without this service we won’t be sweeping through.
“There’s always the potential risk of pricks,” Macdonald continued. “That’s the fear. All it takes is one.”
He noted the business community, residents and even users are supportive of the program.
In July, the Downtown Surrey BIA released a report that said stray needles have become an “ever-growing concern” in the area.
“Whereas used needles were once largely confined to 135A Street (‘the Strip’), they are increasingly spreading to new, previously unaffected areas,” states the report.
One of the BIA’s recommendations is expansion of the now-cancelled Rig Dig program.
“Everyone recognizes what a valuable service this is,” said Macdonald. “We really don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s a sad day today.”