FREDERICTON -- A former tent city along the St. John River in Fredericton was dismantled last week, but now, it's cordoned off and deemed unsafe for visitors because of the number of needles at the site.

"A large number of needles were found in the snow while clearing the site last week," said Jason Hoyt, director of communications for the New Brunswick Department of Transportation and Infrastructure. "It is feared that many remain behind at the site buried in the snow and ice. The site will remain cordoned off until more of the hazardous materials can be removed, once the snow and ice melt."

There's no telling how long the site will remain a biohazard to the public.

The city says it's pleased the province acted last week by clearing the site, saying "from a public safety perspective, it was the right thing to do."

Before the Out-Of-The-Cold Shelter opened earlier this month, homeless advocates believe about 30 people were living on this site, in tents, on and off. But since then, the shelter has opened, and when the site was dismantled last Friday, they believe fewer than 10 people were calling it home.

"There was just genuine concern from all agencies that it just wasn't safe," said Warren Maddox, executive director of Fredericton Homeless Shelters. "That it's January, it's New Brunswick, it's friggin' cold out. So you're going to end up with frostbite or, God forbid, somebody die. They just needed to get in where it was warm."

St. John House, a men's shelter open 23 hours a day, took in four people who had been living in the tents.

As for the drug issue, the executive director says it's no surprise.

"You'll get some people who will say, 'Well just, you know, go out and arrest all these people, crack down on it and that will solve the problem,'" Maddox said. "Actually, it doesn't -- it makes the problem worse, because what you've done is you've created a vacuum. Crystal meth exists because they created a vacuum with opiates."

The city says it's "anxious" to work with the province to "prevent the site from getting to that stage ever again."

"We are pleased that the province acted last week to clear the site," said Wayne Knorr, communications manager for the City of Fredericton. "From a public safety perspective, we believe it was the right thing to do. In addition to the public safety factor, the shelters also provide access to other services, such as addiction and mental health support."

As for when the site can be cleaned up completely, the city and province say only when the ice and snow melt a bit can the needles be properly cleaned up and disposed of.

"In regards the state of the site, which has been fenced of as a hazardous location because of things like used needles that were found, the site will need to be cleaned up when the weather is more cooperative," said Knorr. "We are anxious to work with the province to prevent the site from getting to this stage again."