PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- It's no secret that Maine is in the midst of a heroin epidemic, and with drugs comes drug pollution.
Portland officials say the city has collected and disposed of about 700 needles so far this year, and at this rate, they'll exceed the 900 total that was collected in all of 2016.
But officials believe seeing more needles isn't all bad. It could mean that the programs they have in place to dispose of them safely are working.
Two years ago, the city started placing sharps containers next to trash cans in parks and near playgrounds to encourage safe disposal of sharp objects. There's also a phone number and an app that residents can use to report a needle sighting, and a city worker will come and properly dispose of it. Officials say the 700 needles that have been collected so far this year come from all of those programs, which are in place to help keep public areas safe.
"I mean we'd rather have them collected in a safe manner. We don't want other people coming in contact with them," says Jessica Grondin, director of communications for the city of Portland. "We also have the city's needle exchange, which is a one-for-one exchange program, so that really is a way to get people in and talk to them about other services."
City officials say if they see a significant spike in the number of needles collected by the end of the year, they will re-evaluate their approach.
Officials say you can report needle sightings through the "Fix It Portland" app, which is available for Apple and Google users. You can also report them on the city's website, or by calling 874-8493.