Greenfield opts out of state’s aerial mosquito spraying

  • BERSHOF

Staff Writer
Published: 5/5/2021 4:57:05 PM

GREENFIELD — The City Council voted during an emergency meeting Tuesday to opt out of recent State Reclamation and Mosquito Control Board legislation that would allow aerial spraying in certain situations.

Board of Health Chair Nancee Bershof said the legislation authorizes the State Reclamation and Mosquito Control Board, under the Department of Agricultural Resources, to “engage in preventative, management and eradication methods whenever the commission of public health determines an elevated risk of arbovirus (arthropod-borne virus) exists or may exist for the current or upcoming year.”

“The difficulty is when aerial spraying is the recommended choice,” Bershof said. “The chemical adulticide used is Anvil 10-10. Controversy exists about the safety and efficacy of this treatment and of the effectiveness in general of aerial spraying.”

In July 2020, the new legislation passed because of outbreaks of Eastern Equine Encephalitis, better known as EEE. The original legislation of the 1960s was updated with input from various state agencies, including the Department of Agricultural Resources and the Department of Public Health.

Because mosquito-borne illnesses had been increasing, Bershof explained, and since the area had no surveillance data or recourse to aerial spraying by the state, Carolyn Shores Ness, a Selectboard member in Deerfield, helped create the Pioneer Valley Mosquito Control District in late 2016. She is currently a commissioner for that district.

Grants and state funding helped begin the process of surveillance of wetlands and catch basins for disease-carrying mosquitoes and last year, with the help of Greenfield Health Department Director Jennifer Hoffman, the city joined the Pioneer Valley Mosquito Control District.

“This is significant because it allows our city to have a major say in how potential outbreaks are managed,” Bershof said. “Thus far, our surveillance, which started in 2018, has shown no presence of EEE or other problematic arboviruses, but that could change.”

The legislation also set up the Mosquito Control for the 21st Century Task Force that, among other things, is charged with providing a pathway for municipalities to “opt out” of the law by submitting a form that explicitly states how towns and cities will manage the mosquito monitoring and eradication of outbreaks of the infestation of EEE and other disease-carrying mosquitoes in their jurisdiction. The option to opt out was announced in April. Municipalities have until May 15 to do so.

“There are varying opinions about whether we need to opt out since we took control of the issue by joining up with the district,” Bershof said. “I spoke to Caroline Higley, director of environmental policy coordination with the state’s Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, who said that even if we belong to the Pioneer Valley Mosquito Control District, if the state thinks it’s necessary to aerial spray in Greenfield, we will have no say about that decision unless we have opted out.”

Bershof said Shores Ness told her she thinks opting out will reduce local options because if aerial spraying is needed, the state will not provide the services or pay for them.

“However, according to Michael Nelson, selectman in Montague, the state will assess the cost to us via the Cherry Sheet Manual,” she added.

“One of the reasons we had such a wicked hard time forming a district is that we did not want to have anything come off the cherry sheets,” Shores Ness said. “We have voluntary menu payments — no cherry sheet. The state does not have that legislative mechanism to use for the Pioneer Valley Mosquito Control District. It’s local control only.”

The cherry sheet keeps track of what the state will give a community in aid.

State Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, said the new legislation is better than the one of the 1960s, but does allow for aerial spraying. It also includes calls for public education, standing water drainage, ground larvicide application and other steps in addition to aerial pesticide spraying.

The state has to give 48 hours notice before spraying, and has to protect public health and the environment.

Some of the concerns are for other insects and birds, which could be harmed during spraying, according to Greening Greenfield member Nancy Hazard.

She said mosquitoes are active at different times of day, depending on the temperature. Fall is the most likely time disease occurs, when temperatures are cool.

Hazard said mosquito eggs are laid in stagnant water. Dry weather reduces the mosquito population because there is less stagnant water in catch basins, storm drains, discarded tires, bird baths, buckets and more.

For a fee, municipalities can join the Pioneer Valley Mosquito Control District, which has some staffing and volunteers. Mosquitoes are trapped weekly, depending on the weather. Staff separate the three key species and send them to the University of Massachusetts Amherst for testing. Records are kept on the number of mosquitoes of concern, test results and health of residents.

Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-9591 or afritz@recorder.com.




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