By Bob Katzen
The House and Senate approved and sent to the governor legislation that would grant additional tools to the State Reclamation and Mosquito Control Board to combat mosquito-borne illnesses including Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) and West Nile Virus (WNV). The measure gives the board the authority to take preventative, management and eradication methods to address the mosquito problem when the risk is elevated. The board must notify local authorities, property owners, agricultural entities and other stakeholders about spraying plans, products and timelines.
Other provisions include allowing cities and towns to opt out of mosquito control efforts if they provide a suitable alternative control plan; requiring the board after each spraying action to provide a written report summarizing efforts and details of products used to stakeholders; and creating a Mosquito Control for the 21st Century Task Force to develop a sustainable, long-term mosquito plan using input from a number of stakeholders and experts with the goals of protecting public health while minimizing environmental impacts.
“Overuse of pesticides has impacts on our natural ecosystems, water resources, pollinators and potentially our health,” said Rep. Carolyn Dykema (D-Holliston). “This bill requires Massachusetts to develop a more sustainable approach to mosquito-borne viruses that limits our reliance on broad-based spraying. Climate change is likely to increase the presence of these viruses in the future, and this legislation will ensure we have a more effective and environmentally responsible response.”
During the hearing on the original version of the legislation in May, many groups and individuals testified against the bill. They expressed concern about land, rivers and wetlands conservation, organic agriculture, wildlife and exposure to toxic chemicals.
On June 11, the Senate approved its own version of the bill which addressed some of these concerns. Many opponents of the original version said the Senate and House version are more acceptable than the original.
The DPH has advised residents to protect themselves by using mosquito repellents with an EPA-registered active ingredient; wearing long pants, a long-sleeved shirt and socks when outdoors; keeping mosquitoes out of your home by repairing any holes in your screens and making sure they are tightly attached to all your doors and windows; and removing areas of standing water around your home.
More details on how to protect yourself can be found at https://www.mass.gov/service-details/west-nile-virus-wnv