Hadley to remain in state’s mosquito control program

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Staff Writer
Published: 5/21/2021 5:12:47 PM

HADLEY — Many local communities are opting out of the state’s mosquito spraying program, but Hadley will remain part of it, at least for this summer.

Already a member of the Pioneer Valley Mosquito Control Network, for which it has paid $5,000 annually since 2018, the Select Board voted 3-2 to stay in the program, despite getting a unanimous recommendation from the Board of Health, and the urging of several residents during public feedback, to opt out.

Select Board member John Waskiewicz said he worries that wet weather this summer could lead to outbreaks of illness such as Eastern equine encephalitis, and might put the town in a bind to bring it under control.

“I’d hate to opt out and then end up having some trouble,” Waskiewicz said.

The Select Board narrowly defeated a motion by member Jane Nevinsmith in support of opting out of the program. Nevinsmith said that being part of the local control district already provides an alternative plan.

In addition, Nevinsmith said, turning the matter over to the Board of Health for now, and then bringing back the topic for consideration by voters at Town Meeting in the fall, would make sense.

Nevinsmith was joined in voting in favor by member Joyce Chunglo, but Waskiewicz, Chairman David J. Fill II and member Amy Parsons voted against the motion, with the idea that Town Meeting should decide the course of action. A second, unanimous vote, ensured that voters will weigh in next fall.

Board of Health member Greg Mish said opting out would have given health officials the opportunity to control the EEE outbreaks that began in summer 2019, and publicize precautions to avoid mosquito bites, such as using repellents and encouraging the wearing of long sleeves, pants and socks when at risk.

“We’re recommending that the town opt out of this program and the Board of Health is willing to work on an alternative to aerial spraying for the community if you could task us with it,” Mish said.

Michael Docter, of Bay Road, said as an organic farmer the town is putting his livelihood at risk by allowing state aerial or truck spraying.

“If we are sprayed by mistake, we are out of business, it’s that simple we can no longer sell our product as organic,” Docter said.

But Waskiewicz said his understanding is that the spraying is targeted and has minimal impacts, even on drinking water. “Other farmers don’t have a problem with the correct spraying,” Waskiewicz said.

Fill agreed. “The state’s not going to just go out there blasting millions of dollars of chemicals,” Fill said.

Property owners, as has always been the case, have the opportunity to opt out from spraying. Other residents also advocated for a townwide opt out.

Susan Garrett of Laurana Lane said that spraying toxic pesticides is not a way to control EEE or West Nile virus. “This is not the way to do it, it’s just a crazy idea,” Garrett said.

Instead, she said removing standing water, targeting bug larvae or using other precautions are preferable.

“I really, really hope, for the sake of everyone’s health and the environment, I do hope you opt out,” Garrett said.

Marian Parker of Bristol Lane said she supports opting out of the aerial spraying program, saying it is not the right technique for management and prevention of local disease outbreaks due to the harm it causes wildlife.

Shel Horowitz of Barstow Lane said opting out is about personal liberties and the right to not breathe toxic pesticides.

“There are alternative methods of mosquito control,” Horowitz said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.

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