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Pittsfield Board of Health Wants to Mosquito Spray If Necessary
By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff
02:38PM / Monday, June 10, 2024
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Board of Health has endorsed a mosquito plan that includes adulticide spraying if necessary. It hopes to gain the City Council's support.

It was emphasized that spraying is for disease, not for nuisance.

"I think we have a really thoughtful plan and we've not decided as a community to become pesticide or herbicide free but we know for sure that there are services out there where those chemicals are being used. That is not this kind of program," Chair Bobbie Elliott said.

"This program, we don't want to have to use adulticide spray. We want to do everything else before we get to that point and the criteria are very strict with when we do that. We don't spray for nuisance."

Health officials have also noted the importance of offering spraying at the municipal level for equity, as many residents cannot afford to hire a private contractor.

Mosquito spraying has been a contentious issue for the last five years, with the City Council taking votes against it and residents polarized — some believing that the spray does more harm than good and others arguing that it is necessary.

After seven mosquitos tested positive for West Nile virus last summer, the board unsuccessfully requested that it be resumed. Parameters for spraying are based on risk levels assigned by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Two residents spoke against spraying during public comment, arguing that a small number of people have serious symptoms from mosquito-borne diseases and that adulticide applications will harm the environment.

"It was a very challenging thought process for me to hear residents such as we heard today and hear the other side as well because these residents, they are doing their research and they are making their educated opinion," Director of Public Health Andy Cambi said.

"But I think what we're losing the message is that this is not random. This is not because we want to do it for a nuisance and because we don't want to do it for a nuisance, we can't have it as an opt-in option because if it is an opt-in option, people are going to assume that they just want to do it because its a nuisance to them."

He added that the councilors who took a vote against spraying are greatly respected and he wanted to see if there was a perfect solution.

"But to be honest, there is not," Cambi said. "These mosquitos are going to be carrying diseases and that's how it is and we have to be responsive in our role."

The 2024 plan with the Berkshire County Mosquito Control Project includes new community engagement efforts and a new process for opting out of mosquito control facilitated by the health department.

Under the "adulticiding" section, the threshold for application is a moderate risk level for the probability of human disease as assigned by the state DPH.

This includes when mosquito isolates are detected for two or more consecutive weeks and several factors for low-risk levels that take gas light traps, gravid traps, and flooding events into account.

Public notification via newspaper, the city website, or the Code Red system is in most cases required three days before the application. Truck-mounted applications use the "practically non-toxic pesticide Merus 3.0 Organic Certified and have a 300-foot effective range.

The plan includes educational efforts such as an updated resource guide, community engagement events, and outreach to schools. To opt out of spraying, residents can complete a state form that will take effect two weeks later.

Cambi mosquitos were bad all summer last year and that he didn't start getting phone calls until the public messages were sent out about WNV-infected mosquitos.
"Towards the end of the summer in August that's when I started getting the calls from residents saying, 'You're sending out these public messages to be you aware of this but what's the plan? What is the plan?'" he said.

"And so I said while we do have a plan, we're not implementing it right now because of a vote that was taken so that just kind of brings into perspective about how the residents react to the fact that — they understand it is a public health concern about the West Nile virus."

He added that the city doesn't want to be "caught with one hand tied up" and hopes that the community will understand that the department had to stick to its fundamentals.

"We want to be using all our tools that we have, we want to be able to use our plan…" Cambi said.

"And a lot of residents are not going to be happy with my recommendation but I just hope that they can have the trust in us and myself that we thought we thought this through again and the conversation will continue. This topic is always going to be up for discussion."

Dr. Jeffrey Leppo commented that everyone focuses on the adulticide portion but a good stop system is essential.

"We have a plan that is well thought out and it's going to be used to prevent a potential outbreak of preventable disease and I don't see any reason why we should back off on that concept," he said. "I think we can do a better job of explaining that."

He sees this situation as no different than the measures used to prevent the spread of COVID-19, masking the comparative element to spraying.


2024 Comprehensive Mosquito... by Brittany Polito

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