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Pittsfield Backs Compromise For Mosquito Control
By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff
01:10AM / Wednesday, June 27, 2018
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The City Council approved the changes to the policy on Tuesday.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The City Council ratified what it sees as a compromise with the Board of Health over mosquito control.
The council on Tuesday voted in favor of recommending to the Board of Health to eliminate spraying properties by request and instead base the chemical spraying on two criteria. The Board of Health is in charge of the project and has verbally agreed to vote on the policy. 
"To a certain extent, I am happy with the compromise," City Council President Peter Marchetti said.
The city has been part of the Berkshire County Mosquito Control project since 2010 and just about every year, a group of residents has ferociously fought the project. Opponents raised concerns the chemical adulticide has on the environment, human health, and questions whether or not it is effective.
Those in favor, however, say it is a health program intended to reduce the risk of West Nile virus and eastern equine encephalitis.
The opponents have taken the issue to the Board of Health multiple times. A group was once formed by the prior administration to seek alternative methods, but those recommendations were never put in place. And now, the opponents sought to go after the project's wallet by petitioning the City Council to pull its funding for the project.
Marchetti and Ward Councilor Helen Moon submitted a petition to do just that but it was modified to reduce the use of the adulticide spraying -- leaving the larvicide treatments, source reduction, and constant monitoring in place. 
The Board of Health objected to the petition, saying the spraying is a vital part of the "comprehensive mosquito control plan." But, the councilors also found out that the project was also spraying individual properties by request -- a process that did not include notifications to the neighbors. 
After months of digging into the details, the council's Public Health and Safety subcommittee reached a deal.
The adulticide spraying will only be used when A) West Nile is detected for two consecutive weeks or a single case of EEE. That would be defined by the state as a "moderate risk." Or B) when there are trap counts of different species of mosquitos: 400 Coquillettidia perturbans; 100 Culex pipiens, or 75 after a positive finding; or a flooding event causing counts of 400 Aedes vexans or Ochlerotatus. That would be a low risk as defined by the state.
Armstrong said the nuisance spraying did provide valuable surveillance data of the mosquito population and controlling the population. She said it wasn't just per complaint but that there was also a landing count criteria before a spray is ordered. That is a portion of the program the Board of Health is willing to eliminate.
The council did consider eliminating the B portion of the criteria as well, which would likely have led to further disagreement with the Board of Health. Moon sits on the Public Health and Safety subcommittee and wanted to eliminate the trap-count criteria.
"I didn't mean to include that part. I wanted it to be for just health and safety," Moon said.
She motioned to reduce that. She feels that spraying for trap counts is a nuisance spraying and not a response to public health.
Health Director Gina Armstrong, however, said those conditions were put into the plan in 2015 in the rare occasion that a season is especially bad. Armstrong said that provision helps keep the season from getting out of control. She said the city hasn't used that provision since 2015.
"The board chose to create that section as a proactive measure for those rare seasons when the mosquito situation is really bad. Once those conditions get to a point, you can't control it as well," Armstrong said.
Moon was unable to gain enough support from her colleagues -- only Council Vice President John Krol and Councilor at Large Peter White joined her. 
"Just because there are a lot of mosquitoes doesn't mean there is a risk, it means there are a lot of mosquitoes," White said.
Marchetti said he wants to be cautious when it comes to eliminating spray conditions. He said residents will more likely hire private companies, ultimately defeating the spirit of the petition to stop more spraying. 
"I think all we do is encourage more people to go out and hire people. For those who want to see complete banning, this doesn't get us where we want to go," Marchetti said.
Councilor at Large Melissa Mazzeo agreed, saying private companies are less transparent and the city has no say over which chemicals are being used.
"We're losing control of what's being used," Mazzeo said.
Overall the council agreed to stick with the compromise position with multiple councilors saying the sign of a good compromise is that neither side is happy. 
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