Mosquito spraying: why doesn’t the county want to talk about it?

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County needs to answer questions about spraying program

By Nathaniel Smith, Columnist, The Times

NSmithColLogoThe Kennett Township web site has two running headers at the top: “Monarch Butterfly population decline” and “Mosquito Spraying by Chester County Health Department 8/19/2015.”

Could these two occurrences be connected, as with bee colonies and insect-eating bird populations being killed by neonicotinoid insecticides?

Neonicotinoids and permanone, the mosquito spray used by the County, are made by the same chemical company, Bayer; both kill insects beyond those targeted.

Suppose you were worried about the spraying plans. You’d download the map of the spray area at the Kennett Township web site. Oops, the map is of Oxford, not Kennett. The link to Chesco Health department web site doesn’t work either and when you do run the right page down, still only the Oxford map is there.

So let’s look at the Oxford map. Of course, since this insecticide is toxic to aquatic life, the map should show that any spraying would abide by the legal requirement to avoid areas within 100 feet of a stream, right? Actually the Oxford and Phoenixville spray maps show no cutout areas for waterways. So is the County respecting the 100-foot rule or not?

If you hunt around by searching West Nile Virus, you can find and download the manufacturer’s instructions for Permanone. And that’s when you’d really start to worry because of all the warnings.

So let’s check what the state has to say. According to the “Adult Mosquito Spraying Fact Sheet” posted by the Pennsylvania Dept of Health:

 

  1. What Steps can I take to Protect My Family and Myself?
  2. Residents should close windows and doors and turn off air conditioners before the spraying period begins, and remain inside during spraying.
  3. Bring children’s toys indoors before spraying begins, or rinse them off after.
  4. As usual always wash fresh produce before food preparation or eating. However, you may wish to pick any ripe homegrown fruits and vegetables before the scheduled spraying begins.
  5. Bring pets, food and water dishes indoors, and cover ornamental fish ponds….

 

Why isn’t the County Health department publicizing those steps well in advance of any spraying? Why isn’t it admitting that bees, butterflies, fish, and cats can be killed or sickened by the spray?

No one wants to be afflicted with West Nile Virus, and of course mosquitoes are a nuisance on their own. But before any spraying, the public and the affected municipalities need to know:

How much does the spraying cost the taxpayer and how reliable is the contractor doing the work?

Isn’t eradicating larvae from standing water a safer alternative?

What are the agricultural costs of destroying bees and other pollinating insects?

What is the actual risk of humans contracting West Nile Virus and how many serious cases have occurred in Chester County so far in 2015?

How much would the spraying actually reduce the West Nile Virus risk, given that mosquitoes reproduce quickly and can fly several miles?

What are potential consequences of the spray for human health? Can a chemical toxic to insects, birds, cats, and fish be harmless to people?

And finally, we citizens depend on public officials to communicate with us. So:

Why isn’t the County dialoguing with targeted municipalities to inform their leadership and offer them a chance to opt out of the spraying?

Why isn’t the County Health department publicizing the warnings that come from the manufacturer and the state site?

Is the Health department doing all it can to encourage people to remove mosquito-breeding water and protect themselves against mosquito-borne disease?

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