Community activists fight mosquitoes and spraying

by Pete Bannan, Daily Local News, 9/10/16

WEST CHESTER >> Motorists driving through the streets of the borough this summer may have noticed the lawn signs with a baby wearing a gas mask stating ‘Don’t Spray Me.’ Those provocative signs belong to a group of community activists formed to stop Chester County from spraying pesticides in the borough.

Co-founders Margaret Hudgings and Nathaniel Smith recently sat down with a reporter to talk about the group.

“In 2012 the county sprayed in the southwest quadrant of the borough,” said Hudgings. “The morning after it was like silent spring, and we had a lot of people reporting illnesses.”

Three years later, Hudgings and Smith received reports of a plan by the county to spray in the Marshall Square Park area for West Nile mosquitoes which had been discovered in that neighborhood. County Health Department officials planned to use permethrin with permanone, sprayed by truck in the evening after winds had calmed down.

Concerned about the health effects on people and the environment, the two drew up a petition calling for a stop to spraying.

“We assembled a group of five volunteers who walked the southwest quadrant of the borough with a petition asking the county not to spray,” Hedging said. “We got a 98-percent signing rate. People don’t want to be sprayed.”

They presented it to West Chester Mayor Carolyn Comitta and county health officials…

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History of Dontsprayme to the Sustainability Advisory Council

Margaret Hudgings, on behalf of Dontsprayme, 8/18/16

Don’t Spray Me grew out of citizen concern about spraying in the Borough. The specific issue that rallied support was proposed spraying of Permanone by the Chester County Health Department in Marshall Square Park in late August/early September 2015. More than 300 people signed a petition against spraying and, with the support of Mayor Comitta and Borough Councilman Bill Scott, the Council decided on a “cease and desist” order to stop the spraying.

In October, the West Nile Task Force was formed to work together to reduce mosquitoes and any perceived need for spraying. The three groups involved in the task force are the Chester County Health Department, the Borough of West Chester Public Works Department and the citizen action group Don’tSprayMe. Our goals: reduce mosquitoes and the need for spraying and create a model for other communities to do the same. We would like to assemble a packet of materials that we can hand on to communities with the same mission acting as a model for Chester County and beyond.

Accomplishments to date:

The County and Borough are working together to apply larvicide to storm drains in the borough that have been identified as holding water and being potential breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

The Borough has stepped up enforcement efforts at homes and businesses that have tires stored outside, tall weeds or standing water, especially in trash areas.

The Borough has purchased a vacuum cleaner for storm drains to rid them of debris.

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