District says it will spray everyone (Point Reyes Light, 04.09.2009)

In a move unauthorized by his board, the manager of the Marin/Sonoma Mosquito and Vector Control District cancelled the district’s No Spray agreement. Last week, over 500 Marin and Sonoma residents who were previously on a No Spray list received a certified letter stating that the list was replaced by a 48-hour notification system.

West Marin residents fear that Jim Wanderscheid’s decision violates a five-year agreement they have with the district that prohibits spraying other than during emergencies.

“People on the No Spray List don’t want just to be notified, they don’t want to be sprayed,” said Fred Smith, the district’s West Marin representative. “The district board of trustees never voted to eliminate the No Spray list. I plan to make sure it remains intact.”

The letter stated that residents would be given a 48-hour advance notice if their home is within 3,000 feet of an area scheduled to be treated for adult mosquitoes using a truck-mounted spray unit, or fogger. Advance notice would not be given before other control efforts, including hand-held adulticide sprays.

Last year, the board voted to implement a notification system. “I was assured that it would not affect the No Spray list,” said Sandra Ross, the Mill Valley representative. “There are people who for medical reasons can’t be sprayed. And the spray will get on window sills, the children’s play equipment and the dog’s drinking bowl.”

According to the letter, the district will assume that residents are not interested in being notified if they do not submit their contact information by May 1. But the regular April meeting of the district, which would give people an opportunity to discuss the issue, has been cancelled. “The compounded problem is, the board won’t even meet before May 1,” said Frank Egger, the Fairfax representative.

The letter is unsigned, and the names of all the trustees are listed on the left-hand side. “I’ve had some irate phone calls, irate emails from people who say, ‘I saw your name on that letter, why did you do this to us?’” Egger said. “It’s kind of a shock to all of us. To have the manager make that decision without the board is inappropriate. I want to see the No Spray list expanded, not eliminated.”

Ross spoke with Wanderscheid after the letters were sent. “I said, ‘There are people who can’t get out of the way, and they have a right not to be sprayed.’ And he said, ‘They don’t.’”

A signature is required for residents to be included in the new notification program, but by signing the letter, residents acknowledge that there is no longer a No Spray list. “The No Spray list and the notification system are not the same,” Smith said. “I think of the two as complementary.”

Inverness Park resident Rick Gordon called it a catch. “The phrasing suggests that a response indicates acknowledgment that there is no longer a No Spray list, and non-response indicates that you don’t care to be notified about spraying. Sounds like a legal Catch-22.”

“They spent a huge amount of money sending that out,” said Bolinas resident Eleanor Lyman. “We’re wondering about the significance.”

According to Nizza Sequeira, public relations director for the district, the letter was sent certified—at $4.52 each—because the district wanted to ensure residents would receive the notification and know to update their contact information.

West Marin was outside the district’s boundaries until 2004, when it voted to be annexed into the district. The next year, the district signed an agreement with Marin Organic that allowed the use of approved larvicides on organic farms but only as a last resort. This was followed by a non-toxic agreement signed in 2006 between the district and Bolinas Community Public Utility District on behalf of West Marin. If prevention methods fail, the district can use biological larvicides—naturally occurring bacteria that kill the mosquito larvae without targeting other organisms.

The West Marin Mosquito Control Coordinating Council, a group of community members and representatives from government agencies and non-profit organizations, formed in 2006 and signed an agreement with the district in 2007. If the larvicides are ineffective, a surface film may be sprayed onto septic tanks, small ornamental ponds and animal waste ponds to kill larvae and pupae.

There is one exception. The district, in conjunction with the Marin County Public Health Officer and the California Department of Heath Services, can declare a state of emergency if arboviruses—transmitted by arthropods such as insects, spiders and ticks—are detected. This includes West Nile virus, Western Equine encephalomyelitis and St. Louis encephalitis. Then any agreement with local jurisdictions will be null and void. This year, the agreement was extended for five years.

“The letter was confusing in West Marin because they think, and it’s true, that they’re covered by this working agreement,” said Bobbi Kimball, secretary of the West Marin council.

The situation in West Marin is different, but the exception still holds. Since the district can’t spray in West Marin, being on a No Spray list could be considered redundant. The district can only spray here if there is an emergency, in which case the agreement is null anyways. “Our contract with West Marin will be upheld,” Sequeira said.

The West Marin council met on Monday and has requested a special district board meeting before May 1. “We need both the notification and the No Spray list,” said Liza Goldblatt, co-chair of the West Marin council. “I won’t sign the letter as is, and we urge everyone else to not sign it until we resolve the situation.”

“We’re working on a resolution for the confusion regarding the letter and the notification system,” Sequeira said. “I want to assure the public that we have no plans for conducting adult mosquito control at the moment. The last thing we want is for people to be fearful of us.”


~ by Janet Fang on April 9, 2009.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: