Don’t Spray Me! began three and a half years ago, when several of us circulated a petition calling on the County Health Department to cancel its plan to West Chester’s Marshall Square Park. The claimed justification was, as it still is every time a neighborhood is sprayed, that distributing insecticide through the air was the last resort in protecting the good people in the Marshall Square Park area from West Nile Disease.
We pointed out that West Nile Virus is extremely rare in Pennsylvania and that mosquitoes could not possibly be breeding in Marshall Square Park, because. it is on a slope with no stagnant water. But what made the difference was the support of then Mayor Carolyn Comitta, who asked the County to delay spraying, which it did. Then, in early September, the weather shifted and the supposedly dire threat went away.
We then took to the social media to promote our view that spraying is damaging to human and environmental health. At early post representing our views was “Mosquito spraying: why doesn’t the county want to talk about it?,” first published in The Times of Chester County, 8/13/15. Our Facebook page has also been very helpful in reaching out to the public.
We now have over 550 supporters, about 3/5 of them in West Chester Borough and 2/5 elsewhere in Chester County. Our Board of Directors meets regularly to chart our direction, and we hold many events a year to reach out to the public, about a dozen in 2018.
At first, we joined in the West Nile Task Force with The County Health Department and West Chester Borough. That effort essentially ended a year ago, when it became clear that the County would not defer to a municipality’s desire to avoid being sprayed and meetings were no longer convened.
We have found it helpful to join forces with like-minded non-profit organizations. We are grateful to Sierra Club for, early on, making Don’t Spray Me! a Conservation Committee of the Southeastern PA Group and also to Sierra Club’s Grassroots Network for a grant that enabled us to hire our 2018 summer intern.
In the last year, we have also teamed up with other organizations within the Chester County Environment Alliance and West Chester Green Team. We believe that banding together with like-minded organizations helps us all to project our respective messages and the overall principle of protecting environmental and human health.
In our case, our message has expanded from resisting unnecessary insecticide spraying to educating the public and public officials and employees about the dangers of pesticides, herbicides, and other toxic chemicals that all too often make their way into our lives, homes, gardens, lawns and environment.
(See also our 2018 annual report here.)
Next installments in our story: using Pennsylvania’s Right To Know law, what people and municipalities can do, and specifically larviciding to prevent mosquito breeding in standing water.