Sat 23 Aug 2008
Clintonville neighbor Jeff Fronz organized and reports on an August 20, 2008 meeting about mosquito spraying. Neighbors attending the meeting: CAC Commissioner Clare Balombin, neighbors Dianne Blankenbaker, Robin Chenoweth.
City representatives attending:
- Dr. Teresa Long (Columbus Health Commissioner)
- Steve Soble (neighborhood liaison),
- Roger Cloern (Assistant Helath Commissioner, Administration),
- Andia Sangale, JD (Environmental Policy Advisor),
- Susan Ashbrook (Environmental Steward and Clintonville resident),
- Keith Krinn (Public Health Administrator, Environmental Health Division),
- Dale Harmon (Section Chief, Enviornmental Health)– Dale is the vector control administrator
The goal in meeting with the city was to understand their policy and position but also to establish a path to effect improvements to mosquito control policy, improvements to that policy’s execution, and improvements to communication. To that end, the meeting provided at least a preliminary understanding of the policy and the opportunity to voice concerns. However, additional work will be required to achieve the improvements befitting a world-class mosquito control program.
The main concerns voiced in the meeting came down to three things:
- mosquito-control policy,
- execution of that policy, and
- communication regarding (and as part of) policy execution.
A synopsis of specific concerns:
- the city’s mosquito control plan (their “integrated pest management plan for mosquito control”) hasn’t been updated since 1999 despite advances in understanding of West Nile Virus,
- the city fogged this season (and will continue to fog) with a pesticide toxic to cats (despite having told residents that they would use a less toxic pesticide),
- the city fogged pedestrians and bicyclists who were caught unaware, and
- the city fogged at least one Clintonville home that had requested (and received) an exemption from fogging.
On the policy concern: it’s not clear that there actually is a concrete policy in Columbus for mosquito control.
- During the meeting, the vector control administrator (Dale Harmon) indicated that it is more of “an art” to making the decision on when and where to fog.
- When asked about other cities’ policies of having very explicit thresholds and well-defined goals for escalating efforts at mosquito control, the administrator indicated that such policies were unfounded and ill-conceived.
- When asked to review the city’s policy as part of the meeting’s agenda, the city provided with what turned out to be a synopsis of the policy–a synopsis found to be incorrect (see below).
- When residents received confirmation of opt-out status from the city, the letters indicated that the city would be using malathion in their fogging efforts. In addition, the policy synopsis indicated that they would be using equipment configured for malathion. Even the city’s web pages indicate that malathion will be used. However, the administrator admitted in the meeting that they actually used a permethrin-based insecticide. He said that an outdated letter had been mailed to folks. He said that the city had run out of malathion and decided to use the permethrin-based insecticide instead. The concern here is that permethrin is highly toxic to cats; had residents been alerted to the fact that the city was using permethrin, cat owners would have wanted to take precautions to protect their animals (especially their outdoor cats).
- The vector control administrator indicated that the city’s mosquito control policy (specifically their integrated pest management plan to control mosquitoes) had not been updated since 1999, this despite new and ongoing discoveries about West Nile Virus as well as new and ongoing studies about the effectiveness of associated public policy.
On the policy execution concern: it’s clear that the city is not even executing on their nebulous policy.
- The administrator indicated in the meeting that the policy is for the fogging to be discontinued when the driver sees people outside near the area to be fogged (drivers are “asked” to turn off fog when pedestrians or bicyclists are observed). Yet, the driver who fogged bicyclists on the Olentangy Bicycle Trail continued fogging even after being passed by several bicyclists and joggers.
- Fogging has occurred after sunrise (after 6:30am on July 29th in the case of the bike path fogging); it’s not clear here what the policy is–in some cases, there are indications that the policy is to continue “shortly after sunrise”; in the meeting, the administrator said that typically they’re finished fogging by 6:30AM; the CPH website indicates that they will fog between 4 and 6:00am.
- At least one house was fogged despite a letter from the city assuring that the house would not be fogged. The administrator showed maps of the fogging areas where no-fog requests were represented by high-lighter dots on the map. In this particular case, the home that requested an exemption from fogging was NOT indicated on the map.
It’s clear that there is a need for a quality control process in handling the no-fog requests.
On the communication concern: better job at communicating their policy and intent to execute their policy.
- There is no pro-active attempt to notify local community groups (e.g., area commissions or registered neighborhood groups) that fogging will occur in the groups’ interest areas.
- There is no communication on what risk factors have appeared in a particular area to be fogged. There is a google map of the areas planned to be fogged, which is a great first step. However, it doesn’t provide information about what residents should be concerned about.
- The only attempts at education (one of the primary and most effective parts of an integrated pest management program according to a variety of experts–see nospraycolumbus.com for links) by the city appear to be press releases and (inconsistent) web pages.
As a result of the meeting, the city promised that:
- future Clintonville spraying will be proceeded by the city notifying Steve Soble (the city’s neighborhood liaison for Clintonville) who will notify the Clintonville Area Commission and other neighborhood associations.
- the city’s vector control administrator will provide a copy of the city’s actual integrated pest management plan for mosquito control.
- comments on the plan were welcome after the current mosquito season ends—probably sometime in September.
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