State rejects Orange’s request to opt out of aerial mosquito spraying

Staff Writer
Published: 7/18/2021 4:00:18 PM

ORANGE — The state has denied Orange’s request to opt out of the Department of Agricultural Resources’ aerial mosquito-spraying program due to the town’s “moderate regional risk.”

In May, the Selectboard voted unanimously in favor of opting out and instead proposing an alternative plan. Spraying is meant to protect people against mosquito-borne diseases, but Health Agent Matthew Fortier had said pesticides carry with them their own public health risks.

During her town administrator’s report at last week’s meeting, Gabriele Voelker broke the news to the Selectboard that their request to opt out had been denied.

“The only towns that were approved were towns that had no risk factor, so … they really cut most of us out,” she said. “It’s concerning. My husband’s a beekeeper, so I know what happens and, so, it’s tough.”

Voelker said state Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, informed her of the denial and is formally objecting to it.

Comerford worked with state Reps. Susannah Whipps, Natalie Blais and Mindy Domb on a letter to the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs and the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources.

“While we are very grateful for your work and service, we write with extreme concern and disappointment at the news of local mosquito spraying opt-out denials and to ask clarifying questions regarding the decision-making used in this process,” the letter reads. “Beginning in the summer of 2020, we have repeatedly asked for the opt-out process to be noticed, as well as for the opt-out criteria to be made clearer. On behalf of our districts, we indicated our strong interest in the process and sought information to support our constituents’ engagement in it and to build their capacity to participate effectively.

“We’ve had visibility into the painstaking work in each community relative to the decision to opt out as well as the work to build a viable alternative plan, particularly with consideration to competing priorities related to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the letter continues. “We share the extreme frustration of our constituents.”

Reach Domenic Poli at: or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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