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Morgantown Cleanup Project, Health Right team up to offer sharps cleanup training

MORGANTOWN — When Morgantown Deputy Mayor Danielle Trumble started the Morgantown Cleanup Project Facebook group, she expected a handful of friends to sign on.

In less than a year, more than 400 people have joined the group, which organizes volunteer cleanup events like the one to be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, in conjunction with personnel from Milan Puskar Health Right. 

“We’re going to meet at the Hazel Ruby McQuain Park and they’re going to do a brief training on proper techniques for proper handling and disposal of sharps, which we run into pretty frequently  when we’re doing trail cleanups and things like that,” Trumble said.  

Trumble said her desire to organize cleanup drives predates her time on city council, as does Health Right’s push to have sharps disposal boxes placed at locations known to be frequented by IV drug users.

That initiative dates back to fall 2019, when Health Right first pitched the idea to the city.

Health Right Executive Director Laura Jones told The Dominion Post the process was delayed by difficulties actually getting the containers due to a combination of overwhelming demand and COVID-induced production lags.

But Health Right has had two disposal containers ready for placement since at least July and is awaiting word from the city. 

Trumble said it’s not uncommon to encounter dozens of needles during a large cleanup session.

“It’s long overdue,” she said. “Discarded sharps have been an ongoing problem.” 

That’s been the position of Health Right and the Morgantown Police Department, which have said the boxes can only improve a bad situation.

City police and public works crews, Health Right personnel and neighborhood volunteers expose themselves to blood-borne pathogens and potentially lethal substances cleaning up used needles, many of which are concentrated around specific locations.  

Health Right, which has operated a clean needle exchange since August 2015, will be responsible for emptying and maintaining the containers. 

The Dominion Post asked the city about the status of the containers but did not get a response in time for this report.

Following Thursday’s training and trail cleanup, the Morgantown Cleanup Project will be back in action Sept. 29 — this time in conjunction with Main Street Morgantown and Morgantown Rotary — to tackle trash in the city’s downtown business district. 

That cleanup with begin at 6 p.m. in front of Main Street Morgantown, 201 High St.

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