NASHOBA PUBLISHING/AMELIA PAK-HARVEY
(From left to right): Board of Health Clerk Paige O'Brien and Board of Health members Sharon McCarthy, Thomas Philippou and Lorin Johnson heard residents' concerns over the proposed mosquito control project on Tuesday night. Timothy Deschamps, executive director of the Central Massachusetts Mosquito Control Project, came to the forum to explain the project to the public.
By Amelia Pak-Harvey
HARVARD -- The atmosphere was not quite welcoming at a public forum on mosquito control last week.
About 10 residents gathered to ask questions of Timothy Deschamps, executive director of the Central Massachusetts Mosquito Control Project. The three-year program is a warrant item that could cost the town $55,000 every year if voters approve it at annual town meeting.
The program offers pesticide spraying for mosquito adults and larvae.
Although Deschamps said the pesticides would not have any impact on animals, Deborah Skauen-Hinchliffe of Still River Road suggested that the CMMCP could not guarantee that.
"You don't know what animals are going to be affected," she said, adding that she cannot bring any of her animals inside at night.
"Can you guarantee to me that they'll never be a person in town that doesn't get a mosquito virus?" Deschamps asked.
Deschamps said the program only sprays as much or as little as residents request, but Skauen-Hinchliffe also cited the possibility of a plume of spray coming over from her neighbor's land onto her own.
Another resident brought up the possibility of pesticide resistance, although Deschamps said a biologist tests that level each year and there has been no resistance building up in the native mosquito population.
"Spray programs tend to be very limited, two to three months of the year," he said. "There are large amounts of the year that no spraying is being done."
Beyond spraying, the program offers mosquito traps to determine if the area's mosquitoes are carrying diseases such as West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis. Throughout the year, the program provides public education and ditch maintenance to prevent mosquito habitats from forming. The program also takes steps to reduce potential habitats for larvae by collecting tires.
Mark Hastings of Warren Avenue said the effectiveness of the program cannot be entirely predicted because the town does not know how many residents would be willing to have their property sprayed.
"I have to wonder if perhaps instead of spending the money on your services, we took that same money and used it to subsidize people buying mosquito magnets which don't have the chemical dispersion," he said.
Deschamps said the mosquito traps -- machines that emit carbon dioxide to attract and kill the insect -- can be effective, but require a lot of maintenance.
Former selectman Tim Clark said ticks are a more pressing problem.
"I know you've had this on your agenda before, but I think the impact on human health with tick-borne illness is far more significant than the impact to human health in mosquito-borne illnesses," he said. "That's where we should put our efforts."
Board of Health Chairman Thomas Philippou said the board will probably be withdrawing the warrant article, but perhaps the town can agree to work with other solutions, such as subsidies for mosquito traps.
"It was a way more civil meeting than I thought it was going to be," he said after the meeting. The town's reception to these control measures has not been successful in the past. In 2011, voters rejected a $5,000 warrant article for larvicide.
Philippou said he never expected the town to vote for the program, but said there still has to be a way the community can come together and find another solution.
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