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100s of Hypodermic Needles Wash Ashore in Newport Beach

Scores, possibly hundreds of hypodermic needles have washed up on a southern California beach after weekend rains flowed down the Santa Ana river.

One day after Christmas, the City of Newport Beach received reports of hypodermic needles among debris that washed down the Santa Ana River, into the ocean, and onto the shore. The city’s police department responded that same Monday and found five needles.

As of Tuesday afternoon, county workers were looking into the West Newport beach area where beachgoers reported seeing scores of needles. “We can’t confirm how they got here, but so far we’ve heard at least 75 syringes…” county Public Works Department spokesman Shannon Widor said according to the Orange County Register.

Orange cones have been put up in the area until a contractor can be hired to clear the needles from the area, according to Widor. City municipal operations director Mike Pisani downplayed the event, stating that it is common for items from the river to wash up and that the needles were intertwined with vegetation that commonly washes up. The Register reported that, according to Pisani, workers are combing the city portion of the beach, but a portion of the beach on the other side of a jetty is the county’s responsibility. 45 syringes were found by county workers on Tuesday.

A Newport Beach lifeguard found about a dozen unused, packaged syringes floating in the water on Tuesday morning according to the Register. The needles, which looked like diabetic blood sample kits, carried a 2003 expiration date. He said of the trash and syringes washing up, “…I’ve seen this stuff before.”

A local recovering drug addict helped in the cleanup effort. The Register reported that she remarked on her own recovery and a desire to give back. Former 20-year meth and heroin addict Aimee Pacios, 36, has been clean five years and now owns Anchored Recovery.

Pacios saw dozens, possibly hundreds of needles washing ashore. She considered a rising Orange County heroin epidemic and homeless camps along the Santa Ana river as the potential source of the syringes. It is debris from the river that washes trash out to sea and onto shore, especially after rains like those that came down over the Christmas weekend.

Government officials have not yet nailed down the source of the needles, according to the local newspaper report. Widor did state that the location of the needles indicates they were not legally disposed of. As of Wednesday, he was not aware of any investigation into the source of the needles, which don’t appear to carry identifying information such as serial numbers.

Last June, just a few miles south, Monarch Beach made environmental activist group Heal The Bay’s Bummer List, according to the Register. City officials responded with a three-month project using a local company, its falconer, and a hawk in an attempt to remedy a seagull poop problem. The seagull droppings had been contributing to high bacteria levels in the area. The results of that effort were recently released and showed success. The county funded the project to the tune of $26,070.

Follow Michelle Moons on Twitter @MichelleDiana.

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