Health Dept. wants to spray West Chester

And we don’t want them to. Stay tuned.

Download the Health Dept. announcement here: West Chester Spray 8-16-18

We keep having to point out that the phrase “to prevent West Nile Virus” in the press release title makes no sense. The West Nile virus is carried in birds, especially crows, and then is picked up by mosquitoes that bite the birds, and those same mosquitoes can then bite people. But the transmission chain to humans must be really weak, because this whole year PA has had only one possible identified human case, not definitely verified and not critical.

About this particular spray plan: Note from the maps below that the proposed spray area would include almost all of the S. half of the Borough and most of the NE (including Marshall Square Park, where the Borough fended off spraying 3 years ago).

The County Health Department’s press release says: “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.” That is a very low-level warning. Of course, everyone ought to be concerned about any pesticide being directly sprayed on them or infiltrating their dwellings.

But how does that advice play out in an urban area like downtown West Chester? What will people here be doing on a Thursday eve, other than sitting at home with their children and pets?

Although spraying is not scheduled right on Market and Gay Streets, it would pass really close to them, and of course spray drifts. Are people enjoying their outside drink or dinner in the center of town going to have methoprene drifting onto them and their food and into their lungs? Is West Chester going to earn the reputation of a place to avoid patronizing?

If just one hypersensitive person dining outside or inadvertently walking through the spray area has a serious adverse reaction, or one small asthmatic child in tow has to be rushed to the ER, that is going to be big liability. For whom?

For the County, which does the spraying? (Let’s be clear: the County decides when to spray, not the State.) The restaurant owner who could be said to have the duty to close down outdoors for the evening? The Business Improvement District, unless it acts to get downtown closed off? The Borough, if it does not make the decision to close the parking garages and post warning signs? This is a real morass. It’s not like spraying a rural area where houses are 500 feet apart with long driveways.

How about West Chester University? The whole campus north of Rosedate is in the spray area. Are all the students going to be told to stay in their rooms from 8 p.m. till the next day? How about those coming back from an off-campus job or the Library?

The Health Department really has not thought this through. If they wanted to make a more reasonable case, they would be proposing to spray only in the immediate vicinity of what are apparently the 3 trap sites with high readings: College Ave at the pumping station, Green Field, and Magnolia St.

The Health Department releases its info selectively to make its own pro-spraying case. Where are the other 28 traps in the Borough? What are their readings? Why do they want to spray the NE but not the NW? It’s full of mysteries, and that’s the way they seem to want it. But we don’t. “Trust us” doesn’t work any more, and especially now that Chester County has become all too familiar with the PA DEP, which is the state resource on both pipelines and mosquitoes.

When Don’t Spray Me! filed a Right To Know request, the Health Department said it did not know where it larvicided in 2015-17; and they also say they don’t have time to tell us where they larvicided this year. They say they spray only “after exhausting all other available mosquito control strategies” and they don’t even know where they have larvicided, which is the most effective anti-mosquito treatment in known breeding sites like storm drains and stagnant bodies of water?

If the HD can’t do better to explain its actions and consider the effects on a complex urban population, it needs to be stopped until there is greater accountability in the interest of the public and the environment.

NE West Chester:

 

Southern half of West Chester:

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Case studies in what to avoid


Above-ground pools are often forgotten or abandoned and are perfect hosts for organic matter and, consequently, mosquito families. (In-ground pools usually have enough chemicals to deter mosquito breeding, but beware of water accumulating on pool covers!)


Puddle dug by cars at the edge of the road. If it stays wet for 7 days, it will be productive!


Clogged eave about 7 feet off the ground, easily accessible to mosquitoes (they will fly much higher too). The obstruction at the far end (the low end, over the downpipe unless there is a construcvtion error) needs to be cleared regularly.


Looking down this grill over a storm drain, you can see sky reflected back to you from water standing at the bottom. A beacon to egg-laying mosquitoes!

Trash can lid with larvae
Overturned trash lids can hold water. Lids should be tightly affixed to containers at all times in order to keep out water and other common pests like rats.

 

Flat roof syndrome. For some reason architects or builders can’t always figure out drainage, or else the roof sags over time. Yes, mosquitoes fly pretty high. If the roof retains water for a week after eggs are laid, the roof is a breeding site!

Prevention of Mosquito Breeding at Sartomer’s West Chester Site

The Sartomer Company, which has a production facility at 610 S. Bolmar St., West Chester, Pennsylvania, informs us that:

“The Sartomer site in West Chester is diligent about controlling standing water that could potentially harbor mosquito larvae. Dikes containing storm water runoff at the site are drained daily to eliminate standing water. The site’s waste water treatment holding pond, which has standing water by design, is treated with biological agents to control the potential for mosquito breeding. These efforts are among many actions that the site takes in order maintain a safe workplace and to be a good member of the community.”

Don’t Spray Me! will welcome, and will gladly post, similar statements from other Chester County businesses.


Sartomer in its neighborhood, courtesy of Sartomer Co. (S. Bolmar St., at the bottom, E. Union St. at the right, Goose Creek at the back, then S. Adams and other streets).

This plastic isn’t just harming wildlife anymore

email from Environmental Action, 7/8/18 [We also need to point out that it’s not just about pollution, because discarded plastics can favor mosquito breeding. Plastic containers and bags in the street can hold rainwater; plastic that enters storm drains can clog the drains and cause standing water retention; and plastic in waterways can clog flow and produce stagnant surface areas.]

A World Health Organization (WHO) working group just announced that they have concluded that styrene, a foundational component of polystyrene foam, probably causes cancer. 1

In addition to this plastic foam polluting our rivers, lakes and oceans, and harming wildlife, it also risks human health.

If enough of us speak up, we can convince our leaders to ban harmful plastic foam. Add your name today.

From coffee cups to fast food containers, polystyrene foam — what most of us call Styrofoam — is used every day all across the country. And this plastic foam often ends up polluting our water, and risking our health and wildlife. 2

In early April, a young sperm whale washed up on a beach in Spain with 64 pounds of human-made trash in its digestive system. 3 In June, a pilot whale was found in a canal in Thailand, with 80 plastic bags and other plastic debris in its stomach, unable to swim or breathe. 4

It’s stories like these that make it clear, it’s time to act to reduce and rid our planet of plastic pollution.

One place we can start is to not use plastics that end up in our oceans in the first place. One of the worst forms of plastic pollution comes from plastic polystyrene foam. This foam never fully degrades — every single bit of polystyrene foam ever made is still out there. 5

We shouldn’t allow plastic foam to threaten our health, wildlife and the planet. The time to act is now. Add your name opposing plastic foam today.

Thank you for taking environmental action,

The Environmental Action team

1. Aarhus University, ” After 40 Years in Limbo: Styrene Is Probably Carcinogenic ,” ScienceDaily, May 30, 2018.
2. Jose G.B Derraik, ” The Pollution Of The Marine Environment By Plastic Debris: A Review ,” Marine Pollution Bulletin, September 2002.
3. Kristine Phillips, ” A Dead Sperm Whale Was Found With 64 Pounds Of Trash In Its Digestive System ,” The Washington Post, April 11, 2018.
4. Elaina Zachos, ” How This Whale Got Nearly 20 Pounds Of Plastic In Its Stomach ,” National Geographic, June 4, 2018.
5. ” Plastic Marine Debris ,” Oceanic and Atmospheric Association Marine Debris Program, September 2011.

Entomologist John Jackson: “Bugs and Weeds Away–the Natural Way”

On May 29, John Jackson (BA in biology, MA in zoology, PhD in entomology) spoke on having a weed-free sidewalk and neutralizing mosquito breeding spots without using harmful chemicals. His talk at Iron Works Church in West Chester was sponsored by Don’t Spray Me! / Sierra Club and the South West Association of Neighbors (SWAN).

Here are some highlights of his talk and the subsequent discussion (with some resorting of topics):

1) Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes are the best-known insects in the world, because of their role in spreading diseases, especially malaria, yellow fever, and dengue. But the ways chemical tools have been overused against them are not in the interest of either people or wildlife. Chemicals may be needed to prevent massive epidemics, especially in the tropics, but when overused become ineffective because insects develop resistance.

There are lots of biting flies beyond mosquitoes. Here, the predominantly evening-biting Culex mosquitoes can carry West Nile Virus but day-biting Aedes (including Asian Tiger, which has been in the US only since 1985) almost never do. People should not view all insects (of which most don’t bite) as enemies.

Culex, the “house mosquito,” overwinters as adults in sheds, porches, tree hollows, and other sheltered areas. The adult mosquitoes we see in May have overwintered; they may have not yet had time to reproduce. Culex mosquitoes love urban environments, where they lay eggs in water where larvae feed on bacteria and organic matter.

West Nile Virus, which came to the US in 1999, depends on birds as a reservoir (unlike Zika, whose reservoir is people, making it easier to contain, as recently in Miami). Some birds, which in the past were often dying of WNV, appear now to be developing immunity. Fortunately, WNV is not transmitted through mosquito eggs, only from a bitten bird to another bitten bird or human. Known human WNV cases have been rare in PA.

Effective non-chemical defenses include tight-fitting screens, fans on ceilings or porches, repellents (notably lemon eucalyptus oil, picaridin, or citronella oil), various odoriferous granules spread in gardens or lawns.

Fogging with pesticides is a bad idea, because it kills many species, including mosquito predators like spiders; drift cannot be controlled; and it kills only adult mosquitoes, whereas many more larvae are just waiting to hatch every day and take over the air space.

The absolutely most important thing is to eliminate standing water, including where we might not think of it: in plastic bottles, the folds of tarps, in the fixed bottoms under some potted plants, even vases in cemeteries.

From mosquito egg to adult probably takes 10-15 days when weather is hot and damp, but 25-30 days with temperatures in the 70’s.

The bacteria-based larvcide Bti is very effective at killing mosquito larvae. The biscuits and granules have slower release than liquid and powder form. The hormonal Methoprene is also not toxic and prevents the metamorphosis to adult.

One of the worst sampling stations is in SE West Chester; it is not clear if that is related to Goose Creek. Trash in suburban streams creates mosquito habitat. And water can stand in old storm sewer lines like the Borough’s.

2) Weeds

Some undesired plants, like dandelions and poison ivy, are best dug up. Weeds are tough, but weakening them by cutting off the leaves a few times makes them more vulnerable to other treatments.

Old-school boiling water works really well; be careful, wear boots and goggles! Ditto butane flame torches. Or: a weak acid breaks down cell walls; vinegar works, but changes the soil chemistry.

He prefers to use 1 cup of borax (another kind of salt) in 1 gallon of warm water to kill weeds. The borax concentration can be doubled if needed. It also, for better or worse, it also kills ants, moss, lichen, and liverwort. Two applications a summer usually suffice, preferably in hot dry weather, since rain washes the borax away.

Regular table salt also kills plants; witness the die-off this past winter along roads and alleys in the Borough, which uses salt and brine to melt snow and ice. Municipalities tend to use twice as much salt as 20 years ago, even though less harmful substances are available. As a result, streams have increased chloride levels; he measured half the salt content of seawater in one stream.


excess salt, edge of alley, West Chester, 12/20/17

Don’t Spray Me! Report for 2017

First, we got some good coverage in 2017 (as in 2016) in the Daily Local News. See “Area teens find organic solution for killing weeds in sidewalks,” 7/17/17, and “‘Don’t Spray Me!’ holds rally in West Chester,” 8/28/17.

Our 5-page report can be downloaded here: DSM report 2017 12-3-17. It includes the following topics:

Spraying, larviciding, and storm drains

West Chester got through another summer with no Chester County Health Department spraying, but East Bradford, Downingtown, Birmingham, Thornbury, and Spring City were not so fortunate. It was a difficult summer with heat and lots of rain and in some areas residents reported more mosquitoes than in 2016.

We would like to emphasize preventive measures and are pressing for more thorough-going inspection, repair, and larviciding of storm drains wherever they exist. We believe that storm drains and sluggish natural water in dry weather are now the main sources of mosquitoes here. We plan to continue to emphasize the Block Captain model in West Chester.

East Bradford report

Lots of progress coming from the town’s Environmental Advisory Council and municipal staff; and residents and homeowner associations started to be more active.

Other accomplishments and victories in 2017

– a March for the Environment, following speakers in the center of West Chester, with 250 people

– an experiment in which our “Sierra Club Youth Corps” of high school students showed that a non-toxic solution is effective in fighting weeds in brick sidewalks

– two celebratory community picnics in May and in September, with other local groups

– an environmental film series at West Chester University in the fall, emphasizing toxic chemicals

Goals for 2018

Work with municipalities and the County on community education.

Emphasize larviciding, the most effective form of mosquito control.

Understand better the Vector Index used as a guide to spraying by the County and work toward raised thresholds.

Institute an “Adopt a Storm Drain” program.

Start up new DSM chapters.

A new model of yard signs.

Programs: Jan. 21 environmental justice film, Feb. 25 panel on environmental and climate change, Earth Day gathering and march on Sunday April 22, summer community event, May and Sept. celebrations in Everhart Park, Green Lawns event in fall.

A summer intern helping implement outreach, mosquito control, and larviciding goals.

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. Continue reading

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.

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!