Unity in Community Picnic: Sunday Sept. 3

We cordially invite you to our end-of-summer Unity in Community Picnic, sponsored by the Sierra Club Sustainability Committee, Don’t Spray Me! and the West Chester Food Co-op–3 groups working together for people and the environment. This celebration of growth–both in our numbers and in public consciousness of our message–will take place on Sunday, September 3, from 4 to 6 p.m., in Everhart Park, on the Union St. side, between S. Brandywine and S. Bradford Streets. West Chester Borough. (Rain date: Labor Day, Monday Sept. 4.)

Come learn about Bat House-making, get the kids involved in fun environmental games, enjoy sample food from the Food Co-op, experience Tai Chi and Yoga demonstrations, Sierra Club displays, and plenty of good company. Please bring your own picnic and utensils.

We also commemorate the life of Graham Hudgings, an inspiration to our founding and all of our activities and a long-time sufferer from multiple chemical hypersensitivities, who tragically left us earlier this year.

For more information contact Margaret Hudgings at mhudgings@gmail.com/ or 610-692-3849.

Birmingham and Thornbury get 48-hour warning

[DSM note: This is not what we want to happen. This large residential area on both sides of route 202 in 2 townships contains many dwellings and several bodies of water and streams. Anyone in the area, please try to observe and let us know:

• Are adequate warning posted well in advance so residents and visitors will know to stay out of the way of the spray and take protective measures?
• Did you observe people who were not aware of the recommended precautions?
• Is there a vehicle with a loud speaker in front of the spray truck warning people to stay indoors or leave the vicinity?
• Does the truck spray more than once in any street or on any area?
• Is the spray shut off as the truck approaches a stream or body of water and if so, how many feet away?
• After spraying, what difference do you notice in the number of mosquitoes and other insects such as honey bees and dragonflies?
• Did you notice any effect, either immediate or after a few days, on children, cats, frogs, birds, or bats?
• How long does it take for the adult mosquito population to get back to about what it was before?]

Mosquito control treatment scheduled for Birmingham and Thornbury Townships

News release from Chester County Health Department, 8/8/17, 4:30 p.m.

The Chester County Health Department will conduct a mosquito control treatment spray in portions of Birmingham and Thornbury Townships (map of treatment area). The treatment is scheduled for Thursday, August 10th from 7:45 pm to 11:00 pm. The rain date for this event is Tuesday, August 15th from 7:45 pm to 11:00 pm.

The Chester County Health Department conducts mosquito control treatment in areas with high levels of mosquito activity and where multiple mosquito samples have tested positive for West Nile Virus (WNV). After exhausting all other available mosquito control strategies, spraying is conducted to reduce residents’ risk of WNV infection. Anyone living in an area where mosquitoes are infected with WNV is at risk, but the risk of infection is highest for people who work outside or participate in outdoor activities. Less than 1% of people infected will develop serious illness. While serious illness can occur in people of any age, people over 60 years of age, people who have received organ transplants, and people with certain medical conditions such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, and kidney disease are at the greatest risk for serious illness.

The Chester County Health Department uses a truck-mounted sprayer to apply 1.5 ounces of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-approved product (Permanone) per acre of land. The mosquito control spray becomes inactive in just a few hours or with sunshine. Sprays are conducted after sunset, when mosquitoes are most active and bees have returned to their hives. Sprayers are turned off near bodies of water and apiaries to protect aquatic life and bees. The Chester County Health Department also notifies registered beekeepers and residents who are listed as hypersensitive in a designated spray area prior to conducting a spray. People who are concerned about exposure to mosquito control products can reduce their potential for exposure by staying indoors with children and pets when their neighborhood is being sprayed. If you would like to take extra precautions after the spray is completed, you can rinse off outdoor furniture or playground equipment before use.

Although spraying helps to reduce mosquito populations, the Chester County Health Department encourages residents to “Make You and Your Home a Bite-Free Zone” to prevent WNV and other mosquito-borne diseases. Because mosquito-borne diseases are spread through the bite of an infected mosquito, residents can reduce their risk by using insect repellent and other personal protection and getting rid of standing water on their property….

read more for general advice at Chester County Health Department

If you are in the purple area on the downloaded map below, the plan is to spray you on Aug. 10 (the same area was sprayed on Sept. 12, 2016):

The importance of larviciding … including out of sight

In the 4-part mosquito life cycle*, the most vulnerable stage is the larva. Eggs are designed to survive, pupae don’t eat and their chief enemy would be rough water preventing them from breathing, and adults as we all observe are elusive fliers.

But larvae depend on feeding on organic matter in unclean standing water. If they get too hot or cold, don’t find enough food, or can’t breathe regularly at the surface, they will develop into adults either slowly or not at all.

Underground breeding: Out of sight not out of mind!

It is often said that mosquitoes become more numerous in wet weather, because they find more attractive (to them) surface-level breeding water (as long as there isn’t so much rain that the eggs, larvae, or pupae are washed away or drowned).

But in built-up areas, we often notice more mosquitoes in dry weather. That is a pretty sure sign that they are readily reproducing in water that does not dry up in dry weather.

Since residents are being more and more attentive about preventing breeding at surface level on their property, maybe the mosquitoes are finding other standing water, out of sight, below ground level.**

One place we may not think of looking is in drains on our property, which may catch water from driveways, natural surface draining paths, or downspouts off roofs.

Here we see a largish drain in an individual yard, into which water can flow either from higher ground or from storm drains on streets higher up a sloping terrain.

If you have such a drain, please look down it with a flashlight 4 or 5 days after a rain. If there is water sitting there, you are about to breed mosquitoes and should apply the bacteria-based larvicide. Any significant rain would wash out the future mosquitoes… and also any larvicide; so we need to remain alert to conditions.

Bti is widely used to stop larvae from growing by preventing their digestive tract from functioning. See more on Bti here.

Municipal storm drains and pipes

Mosquitoes also like to breed in municipal storm drains. Storm drains are the drains at street level where rain water pours down into what is known as a sump or catch basin. Any water that stands in the sump provides an ideal mosquito incubator: stagnant, organic-rich, and undisturbed (at least, until the next rain).

Theoretically water should drain out entirely after the rainfall ceases. It’s hard to see if a sump really does drain but sometimes you can look down with a flashlight.

According to the PA West Nile website (from the download Stormwater Management and West Nile Virus:

Are stormwater catch basins significant production areas for WNV carrying mosquitoes?

Catch basins can be important production areas for mosquitoes in the genus Culex (the primary vector of WNV in Pennsylvania). Many storm drain systems are designed to quickly direct water from impervious surfaces to nearby streams. Sometimes these systems can become clogged with debris, which can lead to standing water and mosquito production. Malfunctioning systems should be reported to local authorities for repair. Older catch basins were designed to trap debris and hold a small portion of the storm water after a rainfall event. These catch basins are a significant source of mosquito production and need to be treated for mosquito larvae on a regular basis. Some counties actively treat catch basins with mosquito larvicides to prevent mosquito production.

Here we see a storm drain, also fortunately dry even the day after a rain, at the corner of two streets.

Many cities routinely larvicide their storm drains, such as San Francisco, which larvicides 23,000 storm drains and has no mosquito problem. Alexandria, VA, an old town like West Chester, determined that storm drains were their main location of mosquito breeding and applies larvicide to fight the problem. Shaker Heights, the community on which we modeled our proposed West Nile Task Force Plan, larvicides all of its 850 drains.

Whether or not storm drains hold water right under the edge of the street, it is very hard to construct a large underground pipeline that has no dips or other irregularities that could hold stagnant water.

In case of doubt, let’s larvicide!

How far along an underground pipe (from either the drain end or the outflow end) will a mosquito fly to lay eggs in stagnant water? How long might water stand in an underground pipe before is leaks out or evaporates? Would any larvicide in the sump be carried into depressions in the pipe by a light rain but be carried out the end of the pipe by a strong rain? What is the water temperature in storm drains and downline pipes and what temperature range suits mosquito larvae?

We just haven’t seen good answers to those questions. We did measure the surface temperature of water standing in a storm drain on an August afternoon. The air temperature was about 78 degrees and the water 70 degrees, definitely in the mosquito comfort zone.

In research we have found, mosquitoes favor 80+ degrees and their larvae develop more slowly as the water gets cooler, but they definitely mature down to at least 50 degrees, maybe less. Local science experiment, anyone?

If some observant citizen noticed a swarm of mosquitoes flying out of a dry street drain, that would be valuable evidence, as it would suggest that they grew to maturity farther down the pipe underground. Or, if we could put a mosquito netting over a storm drain 5+ days after a rain, we might see what comes out.

Until we know more, DSM feels it is important, at least in hot dry weather and when mosquito numbers are rising, to get larvicide into any water standing in a drain or farther down the pipe, especially in flatter areas.

This could involve mixing some Bti in a quantity of water and pouring it down suspect street or residential drains. Anyone who has thoughts or experience in this, please let us know!

*For a quick outline (and appreciation of how varied and adaptable mosquitoes are), see “Life cycle” at American Mosquito Control Association. Or, for more detail, West Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District.

**Or out of sight above our heads! We also need to be sure the gutters than drain off water from the edge of roofs are unclogged and do not hold rain water.

Citizen measures for mosquito control become more urgent!

As often happens in mid-summer, mosquito traps set by the County are starting to show some West Nile virus positives. This means that at certain trap sites, over a 24-hour period, one or more mosquitoes out of the scores or hundreds trapped were carrying the virus.

No humans are known to have been affected so far in Chester County, but this means we citizens should redouble our efforts to curb the mosquito population and fend off spraying, whose harmful effects are known and whose benefits, if any, are unproven beyond the initial destruction of adult insects of all species.

Two West Nile Virus positives this month have occurred at Greenfield Park at S. Franklin St.,and Greenview Alley, West Chester, just south of E. Nields St., in West Chester, ward 4, in the southeast part of the Borough

Also, there have been positives in a couple of other sites around the County.

To do your part, please refer to “What can I do to reduce the mosquito population?” and the concrete advice on the Borough site’s Mosquito Awareness page about suppressing standing water.

In West Chester, Block Captains should by now have distributed both 1) a letter from Mayor Jordan Norley and 2) a doorhanger from the Borough.

If you live outside West Chester Borough, please contact us and we will put you in touch with others in your community.

Area teens find organic solution for killing weeds in sidewalks

By Bill Rettew Jr., Daily Local News, 7/17/17

WEST CHESTER >> A group of eight teens is promoting the use of a vinegar solution to kill weeds and grass between the cracks of the borough’s historic brick sidewalks.

The Sierra Club Youth Corps is opposed to treating weeds with the Bayer and Monsanto herbicide Roundup. They choose to use vinegar instead.

Brother and sister team Luca Miraldi, a 10th grader at Devon Prep, and Isabella Miraldi, a senior at Rustin High School, were recently busy spraying a vinegar solution onto the bricks in the 300 block of West Union Street.

Participants will compare the effectiveness of vinegar to Roundup.

“Knowing that there is an alternative way — if there’s something just as good (as Roundup) and it’s a green way — then why not use it?” Isabella said….

read more at Daily Local News

The sump pump danger

Please examine closely:

Potential mosquito breeding ground, right? Nice dirty stagnant water, gathering at the bottom of a bulkhead to be pumped out.

Can mosquitoes fly in? Certainly; no bulkhead is constructed tight enough to keep out a small insect.

Has the homeowner taken the right precautions?

Yes! Note the Bti larvicide tablet floating on the left side. Very good!

The mosquitoes are coming… to East Bradford!

Thanks to the East Bradford municipal administration for giving their residents useful guidelines for protection against breeding and being bitten by mosquitoes. The article below if from page 6 of the East Bradford summer 2017 newsletter.

In addition, East Bradford’s Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) has prepared further information which you can download at the EAC site, including a very thorough In-Depth Report and a Summary.

DSM wishes East Bradford residents as mosquito-free summer as possible!

Film & environment

Opportunity for film buffs:

Don’t Spray Me and Sierra Club Sustainability Committee are working with West Chester University to create an environmental film series to be rolled out this fall.

If you are interested in film and would like to join the group, please contact Margaret Hudgings, mhudgings@gmail.com.

What’s the big danger to public health here?

Number of deaths in Chester County from…

Opioid overdose: about 100 a year. There have been 60 in 2015, 97 in 2016, and 150 can be projected for 2017, per Chesco DA Tom Hogan, in Michael Rellahan, “‘Operation Wildfire:’ Dozens busted in heroin-opioid crackdown,” Daily Local News, 6/27/17.

West Nile Virus: 1 in the 16 years since WNV was first recorded in Chester County in 2001.

Number of deaths in Pennsylvania from…

Drug overdoses: pushing toward 5,000 a year. There have been 3,264 in 2015 (n.b. “Opioids—prescription and illicit—are the main driver of drug overdose deaths”) per CDC and 4,642 in 2016 per USDEA cited in Pennlive).

West Nile Virus: 4 in the last 3 years 1 in 2014 and 1 in 2015 per CDC; 2 in 2016 per CDC)

Opioid deaths in PA are rising dramatically while WNV deaths have fallen over time almost to the vanishing point. Let’s put public resources into drug issues, not spraying for mosquitoes!