GRAFTON, Mass. — It’s been a great summer for mosquitoes. Thanks to a warmer than normal winter, their season began in March.
Should Grafton return to mosquito spraying?
In turn, it has been a busy season for the Massachusetts Department of Health. Warnings to residents about the threat of Eastern Equine Encephalitis and West Nile virus have stretched around the state. In central Massachusetts, there have been recent alerts sent out in Westborough, Grafton, Northborough, Shrewsbury, and Southborough.
The Board of Selectmen invited Timothy Deschamps, Executive Director of the Central Mass Mosquito Control Project, to discuss reinstating Grafton into the membership program. If agreed by them, followed by a majority vote at Town Meeting, it would mean a return since Grafton dropped the program in 1990. Back then, the town voted to discontinue the spraying because a majority believed it was ineffective, expensive, and potentially harmful to the environment.
“The program has come a long way since Grafton dropped out,” said Deschamps.
He emphasized that spraying is more targeted now, with a pesticide that contains, in his words, a “non-residue” formula so plants are not harmed. He said small amounts will be used and will be tailored to meet individual needs of each resident.
“So if I want my yard sprayed, but my next door neighbor does not, you can do that?” asked Selectman David Ross.
Deschamps said a GPS system would be used to make sure neighbors who do not want the spraying, would be honored.
If the town were to rejoin the program, it would cost $60,000 per season with a three year commitment. Neighboring communities of Worcester, Upton, and Sutton have, like Grafton, also opted out of the program. However, 40 communities in Worcester and Middlesex counties participate. The control project is a Massachusetts state agency that falls under the State reclamation and Mosquito Control Board, an agency in the Department of Agricultural Resources.
The program would include not just spraying, but also focus on larval control in still water where mosquitoes hatch, such as in ditches and man-made ponds. They would also set mosquito traps around town to spot potential virus alerts. Deschamps said that the Mass. Department of Health, due to budget cuts, is relying on his organization more each year to spot West Nile and EEE threats.
The selectmen will decide in a future meeting if they believe the town should vote to reinstate their membership for the 2013 season.